Peal River wrestling Head Coach Grier Yorks found the perfect ammunition any time he wanted to give junior John Muldoon a push this season.
"A state champ always works," Yorks would remind him. "You're not a state champ if you don't work. He responds to it.
"(Before the season), he said he wanted to win the section and place at states. I told him he should aim to win sections and states. That's been the goal. To win at states."
Muldoon and teammate James Kelly, a sophomore, left for Albany today to pursue that goal. The NYSPHSAA wrestling championships begin with the opening ceremonies 9:30 a.m Friday.
Muldoon is making his first trip to states after coming up just short a year ago, losing to Ossining's Alex Delacruz in the 113-pound section championship match.
Muldoon punched his tickets to states by Feb. 11.
"John wrestled really well in the section finals," Yorks said. "That's one of the best kids in the state. He's seede third. There is a good chance they will meet again in the stte semifinals. I think if John is on his game, he can beat anybody. If he's not 100 percent, guys like that will beat him."
Delacruz and North Rockland's Blaise Benderoth both made it to states as wild cards, a testament to how strong the section is at 120 pounds.
The preliminary NYSPHSAA brackets who it even more clearly. Muldoon is the No. 2 seed in the state competition, with Delacruz second and Benderoth third. Lancaster's Steven Michel, a senior out of Section 6, is the top seed.
"(Michel) finished sixth in the state last year. He's a quality kid," Yorks said, "There is not a lot of difference among the top eight seeds. There are a lot of good kids this year. In that weight class, there are no easy matches."
The full brackets are available here.
Yorks said that competition at 120 pounds in the section, and the strong opposition Muldoon faced in tournaments such as the Eastern States Wrestling Classic helped prepare him for this weekend.
"He saw a lot of these kids at Eastern States," Yorks said. "He had a taste of what the state tournament will be like. That should really help him. The bottom line is he has to be on his game.
Kelly is not among the top seeds at 99 pounds. He will face top-seeded John Arceri of Huntington, a Section 11 school, in the first round.
Kelly earned his place at states by winning the Section 1 championshp at 99 pounds. Yorks said he wasn't surprised that Kelly won, but he was impressed with how well he wrestled.
"Last year, he was a really small 99 pounds. This year, he is a big 99 pounds," Yorks said. "All the guys who beat him last year are up (in weight class). I expected him to be top three in the section. He probably put his best wrestling out there Monday (the semifinals and finals). It's the best I've seen him wrestle. He pinned one an own the other match, 7-3. There was no doubt in either one
"He really stepped up a notch the way he wrestled. Not winning, but the way he won."
Muldoon and Kelly are two of four wrestlers from Orangetown who earned trips to states by winning Section 1 championships. Tappan Zee features the number two seed at states in two weight classes, junior John Hartnett at 220 pounds and junior Mike Manni at 285.
They are Tappan Zee's first section champions since 1998. This is the first time in the program's history the Dutchmen had two wrestlers win section titles in the same season.