Amsterdam’s Montalvo, Fonda/Johnstown’s Hicks advance to NYSPHSAA boys’ wrestling semifinals

Two wrestlers, one holds other down

Amsterdam’s Renso Montalvo applies pressure to Rush-Henrietta’s Jackson Koppers for more back points during the 145-pound second round match at the NYSPHSAA Division I wrestling championships at MVP Arena Friday, Feb. 24, 2023 in Albany.

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ALBANY — For Owen Hicks, it’s a spot he’s been in before. For Renso Montalvo, it’s uncharted territory.

For both, there was a sense of confidence and optimism on Friday as they wrapped up competition on the first day of the NYSPHSAA boys’ wrestling championships at MVP Arena, knowing they’d return to the mat on Saturday with each wrestler two wins away from a state championship.

Montalvo, an Amsterdam senior, cruised through his two matches on Friday. The No. 3 seed in the Division 1 145-pound bracket pinned Jackson Koppers of Rush-Henrietta in his first match, then powered to a 17-4 victory against James Madison’s Amir Avazov in the quarterfinals.

With his ticket stamped for a semifinal match Saturday against No. 2 seed Jesse Vanorden of Wantagh, Montalvo was brimming with bravado.

“It’s all mentality,” Montalvo said. “These kids don’t have the mentality I’ve got.”

Last year, Montalvo finished fifth at the state tournament, but his championship hopes ended quickly with a loss in the round of 16.

Getting to Saturday with his title bid intact was Montalvo’s first mission. Achieving it was a testament to his development in the last year.

“I’m more mature as a person, and I’m more mature on the mat,” he said. “I’m not afraid to take risks. Scared money don’t make money.”

Hicks, on the other hand, was in this exact same spot one year ago, looking in total control through the quarterfinals and heading to Saturday with a spot in the semis locked up.

After the disappointment of his one-point loss to Cold Spring Harbor’s Jackson Polo in last year’s Division 2 145-pound semifinal, Hicks — seeded third at 145 this year — is determined to make things right this year.

“Hopefully it’s not a repeat of what happened last year,” said Hicks, who will face No. 2 seed Colton Havens of Canisteo-Greenwood in the semifinals. “I’m going to go home, probably cut some wait, and come back tomorrow ready to go.”

On Friday, Hicks had little trouble navigating his first two matches. He easily picked up a 9-1 win over South Jefferson/Sandy Creek’s Ryley Monica in the round of 16, then dispatched Austin Chase of Falconer/Cassadaga Valley 6-3 in the quarterfinals.

The quarterfinal match was a little more challenging, with Hicks heading to the third period nursing a 4-3 lead, but an immediate reversal to start the third made the final two minutes much more manageable.

“You can’t do anything stupid in the quarterfinals,” Hicks said. “Do what works.”

Montgomery County’s third state tournament participant, Hicks’ Fonda/Johnstown teammate Jonathan Cranker, was knocked out of championship contention with a tough loss in his first match of the day.

Cranker, the No. 9 seed at 172 pounds, had a 5-0 lead against Lowville’s Sean Kelly, and was still up 6-5 in the final seconds of the third period before a penalty point sent the match to overtime, where Kelly eventually came away with an 8-6 win.

By Adam Shinder

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