Cheektowaga's Rodriguez-Spencer advances with ease to states
All three of Cheektowaga’s wrestlers placed at the Section VI Division II State Qualifiers at the University of Buffalo on Feb. 9, including a third-time first-place finisher.
Junior Renaldo Rodriguez-Spencer (132) captured his third sectional title last weekend after going 3-0 in the tournament, defeating Ryan Kromer from Lewiston Porter by major decision 18-7 in the finals.
“I knew I wanted to come in here and dominate, which I did,” said Rodriguez-Spencer. “I wanted to come in confident, but not cocky and not take any wrestler for granted.”
Coach Matt Haberl says that everything has gone according to plan for Rodriguez-Spencer up to this point, but Renaldo will not be satisfied with just making it to states in Albany on Feb. 22-23.
“The mission was to get back to the finals and take care of some unsettled business,” said Haberl. “He’s had a great year so far, but he’s not finished. He’s just one step closer.”
Senior Miguel Rodriguez-Spencer (160), Renaldo’s older brother, placed second at the state qualifiers, losing to Gunnar VanCuren of Portville by major decision 18-7 in the finals.
“Being a captain, being side-by-side with my brother…it was a good experience,” said Miguel, who went 2-1 at sectionals. “I know I could’ve won sectionals, I was just too cautious. But I wrestled my butt off.”
The previous week, Miguel wrestled on the mat right next to his brother in the finals as he earned his first Class B championship. So close to joining Renaldo at states, Haberl is proud of the way Miguel finished his senior season.
“He just wrestled a kid that was a lot bigger than him,” said Haberl. “He’s wrestled 145 all season and just went up to 160. But he has nothing to be ashamed of. He had a nice career.”
Also placing at sectionals was junior Matt Bartnik (170), who went 2-3 and took sixth after falling to Frewsburg’s Cody Haller by injury default. After placing third in the Class B championships, Bartnik was seeded seventh in the sectionals and beat second-seeded Ryan Vondell of Eden before losing in the semifinals.
“I thought I could’ve won my semis,” said Bartnik, who hurt his shoulder in the match for fifth and sixth place. “This is really disappointing, but I want to use this for next year. I know I could’ve done a lot better.”
After placing second in the state finals last year, grabbing another class and sectional title were only the appetizer and dinner for Renaldo. Anything less than being the New York state champion is unacceptable in his frame of mind. His dessert awaits him in Albany.
“First I want to train hard, keep my weight under control and take it from there,” said Renaldo. “I just have to take it step-by-step, match-by-match, point-by-point.”
“When he won his first two titles he was jumping in my arms,” said Haberl. “He’s been there. It’s all about winning a state title now.”