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Wrestling

Port Jervis’ Steven Butler wins school’s first-ever Eastern States Classic individual wrestling title

By RICHARD A. ROSS

LOCH SHELDRAKE, NY - Strength, guile, dedication and an indomitable will are just a few of the attributes possessed by great wrestlers whose road to success goes through a seemingly endless parade of foes who seek to vanquish them.

Each match is an all-out test of skill and force. Consequently, when a wrestler evinces the kind of success demonstrated by Port Jervis senior Steven Butler, it is more than noteworthy, it is inspiring.

Butler, a two-time defending Section Nine champion, was the number-one seed coming into this year’s Eastern States Wrestling Classic held at Sullivan County Community College on January 9 and 10. Entering at 20-0 this season, Butler buzzed through his opponents and emerged the 215-pound champion by defeating Zeal McGrew of Burnt Hills 12-1. His title was the first ever won by a Port Jervis wrestler in the tournament’s seven-year history.

Butler vanquished McGrew after jumping out to an early 5-0 lead in the first period. The dominance he evinced in the finals completed a series of convincing wins where he pinned all of his prior opponents, including Darren Fuller from Gouveneur, Deshan Brown of Middletown, Mike Almaviva of Shenendehowa and A.J. Monin of Colonie.

The Eastern States Classic was organized during the 2002-03 season by The Friends of Section Nine Wrestling and is masterfully administered by Section Nine chairman Jeff Cuilty of Newburgh. The tournament was designed to bring big-time wrestling to the region. Featuring 75 teams from New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Virginia and Massachusetts, the Eastern States Classic is one of the most prominent tournaments in the nation and offers an enticing preview of the region’s past and future champions.

This year’s field featured a number of New York State’s top Division One teams including Shenendehowa, Monroe-Woodbury, Tioga, Burnt Hills, Wayne, Amsterdam and MacArthur. On hand were 18 returning state champions.

Butler, who will be wrestling next fall for Newberry College in South Carolina, finished fourth in last year’s state tournament. He lost in the state semi finals to Christian Boley of Brockport, CT.

This year, Butler, who is now 120-15 overall, is literally on a tear and this tournament proved it.

In 2008, Port Jervis stunned the talented field of schools at the Eastern States by emerging with its first-ever team title after finishing 18th the year before. But repeating this year was out as the team had no entries in the 96-, 103- or 130-pound classes. Shenedehowa was this year’s team champion. Austin Meys of Shenendehowa, last year’s state champion at 171, was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler. This year, Meys moved up to 189.

Butler moved up from his 189 class a year ago. At last year’s tournament, he placed second to Hunter Meys of Shenendehowa.

Floor and Zitone fall in semis

For Port Jervis senior C.J. Floor, seeded third in the 189-pound class, the dream of taking on eventual champ Austin Meys did not pan out. Floor fell to Zachary Buonaiuto of Miller Place, a wrestler that Butler beat 4-2 in last year’s state quarterfinals. Floor, who is the defending Section Nine 215-pound champion, pinned Peter Vivonetto of Rocky Point and Mike Matrazzo of Burnt Hills in prior matches. He fell to Buonaiuto 16-6.

A similar fate befell senior J.D. Zitone, who finished second in last year’s Section Nine tourney in the 265-pound class. He finished fourth at states in 2008. Wrestling in this tourney in the 285-pound class, Zitone’s run ended in the semifinals with a 3-1 loss to Brian Nicoll of Timberlane, New Hampshire’s two-time defending state champion. Zitone defeated Joe Messier of Beacon and Simon Ojulo of Newburgh before losing in the semifinals.

Port Jervis will visit Monticello on January 16. This year, Monticello did not enter any wrestlers in the Eastern States tournament. Last year, Vinny Brugaletta and John Bowens competed for the Panthers.

Visit riverreportersports.com for an album of photos of Port Jervis wrestlers.

TRR photo by Richard A. Ross
Steven Butler, top, (215) of Port Jervis won his school’s first-ever individual Eastern States Classic title by defeating Zeal McGrew of Burnt Hills 12-1 in the finals. Butler is a two-time defending Section Nine champion. (Click for larger version)
TRR photo by Richard A. Ross
C.J. Floor (189), top, tried to get the better of Zach Buonaiuto of Miller (Click for larger version)
TRR photo by Richard A. Ross
J.D. Zitone (285) top, grapples with Brian Nicoll of Timberlane in the semifinals. Nicoll won the match 3-1. Zitone finished second in Section Nine a year ago and placed fourth in the states. (Click for larger version)