Wrestling: PJ Duke returns as Minisink Valley, Port Jervis prepare for state tournament

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SLATE HILL — They were ranked first last year, but then they never got to prove it, because the event never happened — just like many unfortunate cancellations due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Minisink Valley wrestling is ready for the NYSPHSAA wrestling dual meet championships at SRC Arena and Events Center in Syracuse on Saturday, Jan. 29.

The Section 9 Div. I dual meet champions looked prepared in a final tune-up before making the trip, after a 75-0 win over Div. II winners Port Jervis on Tuesday night at Minisink Valley High School.

“We’re getting ready and it was a good showing," Minisink Valley coach Kevin Gallagher said. "I thought Joseph Uhrig came back and wrestled tough against Charlie Wylie at 102 lbs. He just lost to her over the weekend, he came back and really wrestled tough. So he’s getting ready for the weekend and that was promising. PJ coming back finally and getting on the mat for the first time in a while, that was good to see him go out there and he looked good. The other guys just really wrestled well and I think we’re coming together.”

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Minisink Valley's PJ Duke wrestles Port Jervis's Ryan Ross in the 145 pound weight class during the Section 9 dual meet wrestling match at Minisink Valley High School in Slate Hill, NY on Tuesday, January 25, 2022. Minisink Valley defeated Port Jervis. KELLY MARSH/FOR THE TIMES HERALD-RECORD
Minisink Valley's PJ Duke wrestles Port Jervis's Ryan Ross in the 145 pound weight class during the Section 9 dual meet wrestling match at Minisink Valley High School in Slate Hill, NY on Tuesday, January 25, 2022. Minisink Valley defeated Port Jervis. KELLY MARSH/FOR THE TIMES HERALD-RECORD

PJ Duke returned for his first match since December after dislocating his kneecap in the finals of an Ironman tournament. Duke said he loved the support from the crowd and the team spirit.

"He’s just been rehabbing like an animal, really, to get back," Gallagher said. "He wanted to get back so bad, and he’s such a tough kid. He’s so mentally focused and driven, so a lot of people would not be back this fast. But the doctor said he’s doing everything and it looks really good and really stable and he’s good to go.”

The freshman won by a 22-5 technical fall over Ryan Ross at 145 lbs.

“It was definitely a pretty scary experience," Duke said as he reflected on his injury back in December. "Looking down and seeing your knee in a whole different place is not the best sight, but luckily I didn’t have anything major, and luckily I was able to compete today. It felt great. I was just a little sore and a little tight, but hopefully it will be gone by states, so I’m excited.”

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It was also Senior Night for the Warriors, who have four on their roster in Mike Altomer, Sofia Macaluso, George Racz and Eric Tigue.

Minisink Valley's PJ Duke wins his match against Port Jervis's Ryan Ross during the Section 9 dual meet wrestling match at Minisink Valley High School in Slate Hill, NY on Tuesday, January 25, 2022. Minisink Valley defeated Port Jervis. KELLY MARSH/FOR THE TIMES HERALD-RECORD
Minisink Valley's PJ Duke wins his match against Port Jervis's Ryan Ross during the Section 9 dual meet wrestling match at Minisink Valley High School in Slate Hill, NY on Tuesday, January 25, 2022. Minisink Valley defeated Port Jervis. KELLY MARSH/FOR THE TIMES HERALD-RECORD

Gallagher said the plan was to get all four a match on their special night, but unfortunately, Racz won by forfeit at 160 lbs.

"As a senior, he’s [Racz] been phenomenal," Gallagher said. "I think he has maybe one loss. He’s been great. On and off the mat he’s a great kid and great leader. Mikey Altomer is another superstar, just a nice kid and he’s really getting ready for the postseason. Eric [Tigue], the same thing, he just keeps getting better all the time and is another guy at doing something really special. Sofia [Macaluso] is ranked in the country in the girls division. They bring so much to our team on and off the mat, just by their personalities. They all have different personalities, but they’re all such good teammates, they’re really awesome teammates and good leaders.”

In a match that featured six Minisink Valley pins, they will take the momentum upstate.

"Hopefully we get back and take care of business," Gallagher said.

On the other end, Port Jervis will appear at the NYSPHSAA dual meet championships for the third time since 2018.

“I’m more or less looking for our kids to compete and have meaningful competition," Port Jervis coach John Foley said. "A lot of times being in Division II, we have to branch out. If we wrestle our best, we put ourselves in the best position to win, and that’s what I’m looking for our kids to do.”

Minisink Valley's PJ Duke wrestles Port Jervis's Ryan Ross in the 145 pound weight class during the Section 9 dual meet wrestling match at Minisink Valley High School in Slate Hill, NY on Tuesday, January 25, 2022. Minisink Valley defeated Port Jervis. KELLY MARSH/FOR THE TIMES HERALD-RECORD
Minisink Valley's PJ Duke wrestles Port Jervis's Ryan Ross in the 145 pound weight class during the Section 9 dual meet wrestling match at Minisink Valley High School in Slate Hill, NY on Tuesday, January 25, 2022. Minisink Valley defeated Port Jervis. KELLY MARSH/FOR THE TIMES HERALD-RECORD

Ivan Figueroa will make his first appearance at the event.

"I’m just ready to experience what it’s like at that level and hope to have a good time and outcome," he said.

Ross, who the team calls "Hammer", is looking forward to competing at the state level.

“Have a good time, wrestle some good guys, get good competition and just ball out at states, that’s really it.

“Port Jervis fears no one. We’ll come anywhere, we’ll do anything, we’ll go to state with eight guys, we don’t care, we’re here to wrestle, we’ll come no matter what," Ross added.

MKramer1@th-record.com

Twitter: @MKramerTHR

This article originally appeared on Times Herald-Record: Section 9 wrestling: MV hopes to take care of business in Syracuse

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