The Daily Catch

With Pins and Wins, Red Hook’s Male Wrestlers Head to State Championship; Raiders Also Land First Girls Wrestling Win

Citrus Triplett, right, took top prize in Section 9, Girls Division wrestling for her weight class (132 pounds), but because New York State doesn’t host girls’ matches, she is finished competing for this season. She heads to college next year (photo courtesy Kelsey Kirker-Clare).

Red Hook has its first female wrestling champion. It inaugurated its first 100-career-win male competitor in three years. A sophomore advances to the state wrestling finals, which start Friday in Albany. And, another Red Hook senior just earned the award for the most entertaining wrestling match.

Those are just a few of the myriad highlights of Red Hook’s wrestling season, as the team is fresh off its win in the Section 9 Division 2 championships, its first such victory since 2017. The defeat over Saugerties and Port Jervis came not a moment too soon for fans.

“It’s been an amazing year for Red Hook wrestling,” said Kelsey Kirker-Clare, owner of The MMA Collective on East Market Street, where Red Hook’s wrestling teams sometimes train. “These kids have worked so hard.”

Added Erica Celestine, another mom whose son, Ewan, is on the team, “You got to hand it to these kids. The hours they put in, the energy they give – and their coaches, too.”

Red Hook’s winning wrestlers. Left, on bottom: Demetrius Massey holds aloft Luke Daniels. Center: Rian Kirker holds Ewan Celestine. Right: Citrus Zania Triplett. (photo courtesy Kelsey Kirker-Clare).

The team victory last Sunday at SUNY’s Stone Ridge campus highlights the strength of Red Hook athletics in a demanding sport sometimes conflated, inaccurately, with its professionally choreographed version. Adding melodrama, gimmickry, and outlandish stuntwork, professional wrestling is more theater than athleticism, experts say. “That’s not our sport at all,” says Kirker-Clare. “These kids are serious athletes.”

The victory also highlights the inequity between boys and girls in wrestling. Citrus Zania Triplett, 17, competing in the Section 9 Girls Division, beat six others in her 132-pound weight class but since there is no state competition for the girls division, she is done for the season.

“It’s really upsetting to not have that big finale to the season that all of the guys get, despite working just as hard as them every time (if not harder),” Citrus said, as she took a break from her other beloved sport, snowboarding, during winter break in Vancouver. “We’re also deprived of the opportunity to prove ourselves among equal competition.”

The Red Hook wrestling team win came after a series of individual trophy performances. In addition to Citrus’ performance, Red Hook High School senior Rian Kirker, Kelsey’s son, 17, grabbed the 100-career-win banner with his Section 9 Division 2 victory in the 126-pound weight class. Other victorious members of Red Hook’s team include sophomore Ewan Celestine, 15, in the 118-pound class; senior Demetrius Massey, 18, in the 138-pound class; and senior Luke Daniels, 17, in the 285-pound class.

Section 9 includes schools from a variety of Dutchess and Ulster County communities, among them Saugerties, Warwick, Port Jervis, Highland, Kingston, Central Valley, Ellenville, Roundout, Onteora, and New Paltz. (Rhinebeck doesn’t field a wrestling team). Schools like Red Hook, with fewer than 600 students, compete in Division 2, while larger schools compete in Division 1.

Rian Kirker, right, has notched 100 high school career wins after first-place showings at Section 9, Division 2 contests (photo courtesy Kelsey Kirker-Clare).

While these two divisions were originally established for boys’ teams, girls today may also participate alongside boys. The third division, the Girls’ Division, is open only to female students. There are 13 weight classes, ranging from 102 pounds to 285.

The Red Hook boys team scored 203 points, ahead of Saugerties with 183.5 points and Port Jervis, with 171. The finals will be held at Albany’s MVP Arena.

Division 1 teams are allowed to send the top two winners in each weight to State; Division 2 teams send only one. Kirker-Clare also tipped her hat to other top Red Hook finishers, among them: Christian Totman, 2nd, in the 162-pound weight class; Shane Cranna, 2nd, in the 132-pound weight class; and Mark Paschal, 3rd, in the 285-pound weight class.

There is no New York State championship for participants in the Girls Division – New York is one of only 13 states that have not sanctioned girls wrestling at the state level – so Citrus is at the end of the line. But, she said she hopes she can inspire others to try the sport and keep pushing for state recognition. “I really hope my win helps move this sport for girls one step closer to equity,” Citrus told The Daily Catch today. “I want to come back in a few years and see lots more girls wrestling for the (Red Hook) Raiders.”

Triplett celebrates her latest win at SUNY’s Stone Ridge campus (photo courtesy Kelsey Kirker-Clare).

Citrus Returns from Injury

The victory comes after a challenging junior year for Citrus, who hopes to head to West Point or the U.S. Air Force Academy upon high school graduation. She tore her ACL during practice at the end of sophomore year and had to sit out almost all of junior year. This year, her final year at Red Hook High School, has been sweet, she says.

“It feels amazing to have won and to know this is what I established for Red Hook,” Citrus said. She lost last year, she said, in a really close match. “And I lost my freshman year. So, it’s nice to finally get that win,” said Citrus. “Girls’ wrestling is also a growing sport throughout the country, and I think it will soon be big in Red Hook.”

The small number of girls in the sport can be a challenge, Citrus says, noting that she’s had to learn to navigate competing directly with boys just to have matches under her belt. “Boys definitely have a strength advantage, so I have to have the better technique,” she said. “But I’m a lot more flexible than the guys. And I can move quicker than a lot of them.”

The object of the sport of wrestling is to put the opponent on their back — to pin their shoulders – for two seconds. Then, the match, which otherwise lasts for three two-minute periods, is over. Not all matches end with a pin, in which case the event is scored on points.

Kelsey Kirker-Clare, left, son Rian, Ewan Celestine, and his mother, Erica (photo by Emily Sachar).

Citrus came to wrestling after trying it during a physical education unit in middle school. She had been rejected for the basketball team in seventh grade, and wrestling offered a new approach to athletics and competition. She says she appreciates the conditioning required by her coaches, Nick Fredericks, Kaare Stokdal and Vincent Grella. And she’s enjoyed mastering the moves, like her favorite, the half-Nelson, a technique for grabbing an opponent’s wrist, then his head, before flipping and pinning him. “If I get that opportunity, I know I have the pin,” Citrus said. “That’s my favorite move.”

Still, she’s eager to see girls’ wrestling expand, and soon. One of the top female wrestlers in the area, Port Jervis eighth-grader Charlie Wylie, will head to State because she competes against boys in Division 2. Insufficient demand is part of the reason girls don’t have state recognition, according to Kirker-Clare.

Rian’s 100-Win Trophy

Rian’s mom celebrated his 100-win career with a canvas banner (photo by Emily Sachar).

Rian Kirker, who practiced jujitsu in elementary school, has been wrestling since seventh grade. “I like how high-intensity it is,” said Rian, who is also the captain of Red Hook’s team. “And I like pushing myself to the limit. There is always something to learn, whether it’s new moves or different mentalities.”

The 100-win accomplishment could have passed him by, his mother said, since the team lost a full year of opportunity to the pandemic. This is only the 14th time in 40 years, since wrestling started at Red Hook High in 1983, that a student has racked up 100 wins, Rian said. He added that he has loved being back on the mat this year.

“It’s two people going out there and fighting for a win,” he said. “There’s no punching, no kicks, no breaking of limbs, no hair pulling, like you see in staged pro wrestling. It’s just good clean competition.”

Some matches are more straightforward than others. Earlier this season, at Mechanicville, N.Y., he faced a particularly challenging opponent. “This guy was really fast, really springy, and agile,” Rian said. “It was hard to keep him down on the mat. I just had to keep up a high pace and work the techniques I know how to do.”

Luke Daniels, Section 9, Division 2 winner in the 285-pound weight class (photo courtesy Kelsey Kirker-Clare).

Track v. Wrestling

Meanwhile, sophomore Ewan Celestine’s father, who has studied jujitsu, has always wanted his son to study martial arts. But Celestine enjoys the solitary challenge of track. Then, he gave wrestling a try in seventh grade. “In sports like cross country, you’re training physically all the time,” he said. “With wrestling, you have to have strategies and plans in your head. This takes technique and skill.” 

Celestine also endured a head wound that caused blood to pour in the final round of his Feb. 12 match.

His mother, Erica Celestine, said she deeply admires the work her son puts into the sport. “Wrestling is grueling. It takes a lot of self-discipline,” she said. “It’s physically challenging. It’s mentally challenging.” 

Entertainment, Too

Fans were on their feet for the last match of Demetrius Massey, who bested Saugerties’ Vance Dyke with just 61 seconds left in the third period of their match in the 138-pound weight class. He then was awarded the prize for most entertaining match for all of Division 2’s contests. “He and Dyke were going back and forth the whole time, up on points, down on points,” said Kirker-Clare. “It came down to the last second, and you didn’t know who was going to pull out the win.”

Demetrius Massey, 18, took first prize in the 138-pound weight class in Section 9, Division 2 wrestling competition (photo courtesy Kelsey Kirker-Clare).

Nimble and Powerful

Kirker-Clare put in a special word for Daniels, who wrestles at the top of a weight class that covers nearly 70 pounds, from 216 to 285. “This was his best season by far,” she said. “He really dug in and worked hard.”

So did one of his coaches. “Luke got back into football after a year away from it, and it helped with his footwork and quickness,” said Fredericks.

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