BY MICHAEL KELLY
CLIFTON PARK — It was a little weird, Kevin Parker admitted, to be introduced before his Dec. 10 match with the words “reigning state champion” preceding his name.
But the Shenendehowa senior wrestler did not mind the pomp and circumstance, either, even if it did make him chuckle in hindsight. Anything Parker — who won his state title earlier this year at 170 pounds — can use to fuel himself with this season, he’ll take.
“It puts a target on your back,” Parker said of the introduction. “You know guys will go and do whatever they can to score, to beat you. For me, it’s motivation to keep working, to stay ahead of people.”
In a Suburban Council meeting between Shenendehowa wrestling and visiting Niskayuna, both sides emerged with ways to motivate themselves moving forward from a 63-15 win for the Plainsmen. For Shenendehowa (3-0), the drive is to keep getting better, to fine-tune its lineup as the program seeks an 11th consecutive sectional team title; and, for Niskayuna (1-1), the focus is on building up the pieces of its roster around stars Anthony Laniewski and Eoghan Sweeney.
“They [Laniewski and Sweeney] have the technique at that elite level that they could go in there, score points, and get pins,” Niskayuna head coach Shaun Neely said of his only two wrestlers Dec. 10 to win contested matches. “The rest of our team doesn’t have the experience they do, but hopefully the rest of our team looks at our ‘Big Two’ and want to get to that level.”
Laniewski earned Niskayuna’s only pinfall against Shenendehowa. The junior continued his strong start to the season, in which he has gotten off to a 7-0 mark.
“Going out there, I was just focusing on what I do best — going out and beating guys,” Laniewski said of his match at Shenendehowa.
But besides Laniewski’s pin at 152 pounds and a decision win from Sweeney — who made it to the state championship tournament last season as a freshman — at 160, the inexperienced Silver Warriors struggled to contend with Shenendehowa’s stable of stars.
“We’re a young team … and [Shen] is one of the best teams in the section,” Laniewski said. “But I promise, there will be a big world of difference with our guys come February. We’ve got a good future ahead.”
The future seemingly always looks good for Shenendehowa, which won nine of the night’s 13 contested weight classes by either pinfall or technical decision.
“Everyone we have is tough,” said senior Anthony DiNallo, who won at 170 pounds via a 19-3 technical fall. “We don’t have a kid out there that’s going to give up. … “Our team is very experienced,” DiNallo said. “We have a lot of guys who work hard in the offseason and they’re getting a chance to show off their skills now.”
Besides DiNallo and Parker, also impressing for Shenendehowa against Niskayuna with hard-fought victories were grapplers such as sophomore Parker Brooks, freshman Kiernan Shanahan, and junior Shane Walpole.
“That’s what’s making our team this strong this year,” said Parker, who used a pin Dec. 10 at 182 pounds to push his individual mark to 6-0 this season. “We don’t have any weak weight classes.”
Shenendehowa head coach Rob Weeks said DiNallo and Parker have helped to spearhead a strong group of senior leaders for his 2015-16 squad. Those veterans, Weeks said, have helped to bring along younger wrestlers such as freshman Cody Deuel — who earned a pinfall win Thursday at 106 pounds, improving his solo record to 6-1 after posting a losing record last year — early on this season.
“They understand the importance of the team aspect to wrestling,” Weeks said of his upperclassmen. “At this time of the year, that’s the focus: the team.”
Shenendehowa 63, Niskayuna 15
120 — Nick Hotaling (S) pinned John Dempsey, :37; 126 — Kiernan Shanahan (S) technical fall over Nick Budka, 21-6; 132 — Dietrich Hartman (S) technical fall over Thomas Minahan, 16-1; 138 — Kevin Guardino (S) pinned Michael Minahan, 2:21; 145 — Parker Brooks (S) pinned Santi Herman, 2:35; 152 — Anthony Laniewski (N) pinned Gabe Cruz, 5:46; 160 — Eoghan Sweeney (N) dec. Danny DeGennaro, 9-2; 170 — Anthony DiNallo (S) technical fall over Jon Hyatt, 19-3; 182 — Kevin Parker (S) pinned Reggie Melvin, 2:22; 195 — Dustin Bruhns (S) pinned Ethan Myers, 4:57; Tyler Comito (S) dec. Ben Gould, 11-4; Shane Walpole (S) dec. Dante Romanucci, 3-1; 99 — Ben Catrambone (N) by forfeit; 106 — Cody Deuel (S) pinned Peter Meshkov, 4:36; 113 — Mike Dimonda (S) by forfeit.