By John D'Onofrio
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
With their bags unpacked after a long drive, Lockport High School wrestlers Mike Feeney and Anthony Orefice are set to compete beginning today in the state high school championships.
It’s the second straight trip to the state’s large school finals for the dynamic duo — senior Feeney at 138 pounds and freshman Orefice at 106.
Head coach Joe Scapelliti said the pair arrived in Albany on Thursday and are excited and eager to compete at the Times Union Center.
“We came down here with high expectations,” Scapelliti said. “For both to get down here again in itself is an outstanding achievement, but after last year’s experience, just standing here isn’t good enough. Anthony finished fourth and Mike didn’t place last year, so both their expectations are pretty high.”
The top seed at 106 pounds is Nick Piccininni of Ward Melville, who is 41-0 with 20 pins coming into the tournament. His closest match this year was a 6-3 win over Mike D’Angelo of Commack. Orefice opens today with a first round match against senior Zin Htoo of Brooklyn Tech.
Dan McDevitt of Wantagh (40-5, 19 pins) is the top seed at 138 pounds. Feeney will open at that weight class today with a match against sophomore Jamiel Stapleton of Malone.
“It’s hard on both because there’s a tremendous amount of pressure to go back as a defending VI champion,” Scapelliti said.
“You’re basically walking around all season with a big target on your back, so you need to be on top of your game every single match. So, for them to win a second straight sectional championship and to return to states is a phenomenal accomplishment.”
The two-time defending Section VI champions were the cream of the crop in 2011-12 on a Lions mat team that featured several former members of the Lockport Kids Wrestling Club (under the direction of Kevin Lucinski), which continues to churn out high school champions.
“When we got the club started up again, Mike was there from the beginning and Anthony joined shortly afterward,” Scapelliti said. “Obviously, the kids’ club has been a tremendous asset to our high school program.”
Orefice has been nothing short of amazing this season and as of the first round of the state tournament today, remains undefeated at 37-0. Scapelliti said the last Lockport grappler to be undefeated heading to states may be either Bill Morello, the school’s all-time winningest grappler, or Bill’s brother, John.
Orefice advanced past Friday’s first round a year ago and finished fourth in 2011. Feeney went 1-2 on the opening day last year and did not advance to the finals.
“We’re hoping for a top-six finish for Mike, but as far as Anthony goes, our goal is nothing less than a state championship,” Scapelliti said.
“Both have been practicing the last two weeks — our state qualifier was two weeks ago — a lot with Lewiston-Porter and Royalton-Hartland, who have kids going with similar weights and they also worked out Friday in the arena.
Scapelliti said both Lockport grapplers are unique.
“Mike’s very athletic and uses his athleticism on the mat. He pays attention to his opponent and scouts them out and likes to have a good, solid game plan in his matches and that plays to his advantage,” Scapelliti said.
“Anthony’s just a natural. He understands his position and keeps himself in a position to win. He’s a gamer. The bigger the match the better he is. He’s always seeking out the best competition to make himself better and that will make a difference for him in the end.”