Sports Editor’s Playbook, Feb. 24, 2011

Patrick Newell

- Interesting wrestling notes that came up in my conversations with Norwich coach Joe Downey and Greene coach Tim Jenks. Norwich state tournament qualifiers Tristan Rifanburg and Frank Garcia attended one Section IV team practice a week ago, but haven’t suffered for lack of training. Aside from having each other to drill against, the Norwich duo traveled to Chenango Forks, Downey said. Rifanburg and Garcia are training with Forks 96-pounder Kyle Kelly, the unbeaten Division I sectional champion who is among the favorites at Albany’s Times Union Center. Additionally, Kelly’s teammate Jacob Green, a 112-pound state tournament alternate, is in the training mix.
Kelly lost two tight matchups to Rifanburg last season, but earned a trip to the state tournament and placed fourth overall at 96 pounds. As we know, Rifanburg was the top dog in Division II at that weight. Garcia, too, had his battles with Forks’ Green a year ago with each one a tight matchup. Downey said Rifanburg is working with Kelly, while Green is paired up with Garcia.

- All season, Jenks has overseen a stockpile of talented middleweights. His 140-pound sophomore, Dan Dickman, was a sectional runner-up. So, too, was 145-pounder Mike Beckwith. Seventh-grader Christian Dietrich and junior Keegan Cerwinski added sectional championships to the mix at 152 and 160 pounds respectively. Two weights higher, senior Kurt Shear is making his second straight appearance in the state tournament at 189 pounds.
Dietrich’s appearance in the tournament is no surprise to Jenks, who has heard of the young man’s wrestling exploits for years. Dietrich was a four-time kids national wrestling champion in the peewee ranks. He typically wrestled up one or two age groups, and when he matched up against kids his own age, it wasn’t unusual for the opponent to give up a forfeit rather than face the young prodigy, Jenks said.
Jenks has coached for decades in Central New York, and he may end up among the all-time win leaders in Section IV coaching history before he retires. He says in all of his years, he has not seen a young man in seventh-grade – who is a legitimate 152-pounder – at Dietrich’s level. “I’m not sure if (Christian) will end up like a Troy Nickerson, but we’ll soon find out,” Jenks said. “He’s a special kid, and we think he’s the real deal.”
Nickerson, for those out of the wrestling loop, won five straight New York State wrestling championships at Chenango Forks High School, and went on to win an NCAA wrestling title while at Cornell University.

- If you’re reading this, you obviously know where to find my sports blog. Saturday morning, I will blog on the New York State wrestling tournament and update the progress of local wrestlers following semifinals round and first round of wrestlebacks. Additionally, I will add quick match results on Twitter, and feel free to follow me on Twitter @evesunpat. If you don’t have a Twitter account, please sign up to receive the updates.