Cooper Merli fought off a takedown attempt, scored two points of his own and the celebration began.
Merli pumped his arms twice and had his left hand for the final time in an incredible freshman season. He shook the hands of his opponent Connor Sheridan of Hauppauge and started an all-out sprint towards Will Parks leaping into the Newburgh assistant coach’s arms.
It’s been 55 years since a Newburgh Free Academy wrestler was crowned a state wrestling champion. Merli ended that with a 8-4 win the state Division I 102-pound final.
Merli’s win culminated and started Section 9’s historic championship round with a record five state titles. Section 9 won the section Division I team title with 218.5 points. Minisink Valley finished first in the Division I team standings with 98.5 points.
Minisink Valley junior 189-pounder Zack Ryder captured his third state championship, tying the section record held by Pine Bush’s Troy Bouzakis and Valley Central’s Lou Ruggirello. Ryder, who recorded pins in his first three state matches, defeated Hilton’s Elijah Diakomihalis 3-0 in the final.
Minisink Valley senior 215-pounder Ethan Gallo defended his state 215-pound championship with a 11-4 victory over Ballston Spa’s Darrien Insogna. Gallo is the first Section 9 wrestler to win back-to-back state title at the same weight since Valley Central’s Ricky Scott in 2004-05 (171 pounds).
Valley Central’s Luke Satriano won the school’s first state title since Cody Ruggirello in 2007 with a 2-1 win over Midwood’s Evin Gursoy. Satriano scored a takedown in the second 30-second tiebreaker period and held on for the victory.
Cornwall’s Tyler Reed capped a stellar senior season, rallying for a 5-0 deficit to defeat Joseph Mattei of Herricks 7-6 in the 160-pound final. Reed joins Paul Paquin (1996, 1997) and Will Leonard (2019) as Cornwall state champions.
Monroe-Woodbury’s Jordan Brown (138), Minisink Valley’s Andrew Filip (172) and Middletown’s Stephan Monchery placed second.
Newburgh Free Academy eighth-grader William Soto placed third at 102 pounds in his first state tournament. Pine Bush’s Braydon Pennell wrestled back to fifth place at 189. Middletown’s Bryson Tibbs (sixth at 215) and Rahmiere Bradley (seventh at 285) earned state medal.
In Division II, Port Jervis 102-pounder Charlie Wylie became the first Section 9 girls to win a state tournament medal, taking sixth. Matt Oosterom placed fourth at 215 for Port Jervis.