By Betsy Veysman
Some have said that the Eastern States Classic serves as a preview of the New York State Championships. Certainly, the tournament features some of the Empire State’s best talent.
The numbers speak for themselves. 12 of the top 20 Division I teams in the state will be at the event along with 7 of the top 20 Division II schools. More than half of the state semifinalists in Albany last year competed in the event. Twelve defending state champions will wrestle this weekend along with 17 state silver medalists.
“There are so many great wrestlers at Eastern States,” said Binghamton University head coach Pat Popolizio. “With so many teams competing, when you win you know you’re at a level where you can compete in college. Our roster at Binghamton is mostly made up of New York wrestlers and most of the recruits we’ve had have won or placed high at Eastern States.”
This year’s 10th annual edition, which will take place on January 13 and 14 at Sullivan Community College in Loch Sheldrake, New York should again display top-notch wrestling. Over 100 squads will compete, including representatives from Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Virginia. With 580 wrestlers in the field, the action will begin at 10:40 a.m. on the 13th and will run through approximately 10 p.m. on Friday night. Wrestling will resume on Saturday morning around 9:15 with medal round bouts scheduled to commence at 4:15 p.m.
With eight placers, Longwood won the team title by 36 points over runner up Shenendehowa in last year’s event, with Fox Lane, Long Beach and Hauppauge rounding out the top five. Those teams are all back to contend, along with Intermat’s #42 team, Wantagh, which has eight grapplers seeded in the top 16, including #1 at 99 pounds Jose Rodriguez. Shenendehowa offers seven seeded wrestlers, including two top seeds, Nick Kelley at 132 and Tony Fusco at 195.
The addition of prep power Wyoming Seminary should have an impact on the team race as well. The Knights won the Bethlehem Holiday Classic and placed fourth and second, respectively, at the very tough Ironman and Beast of the East tournaments. The Pennsylvania school has four nationally ranked wrestlers in the starting lineup: Dominick Malone (126), Eric Morris (170), AJ Vizzcarando (220) and Michael Johnson (285). All four are top seeded this weekend, as is Evan Botwin at 120. Seminary has 13 participants seeded in the top 16 in all.
“We feel adding Wyoming Seminary is a great plus because we get to see how our New York kids stand up against nationally ranked kids,” said Tournament Director Jeff Cuilty. “It’s a chance for some of the New York wrestlers to prove themselves.”
Five wrestlers who proved themselves last January as 2011 Eastern States individual champions return to defend their crowns:
- Travis Passaro stood on top of the podium at 103 a year ago after edging state runner up Mark Raghunandan of Long Beach as the sixth seed. He will have perhaps an even tougher challenge this season as the 11th seed at 120 pounds, a weight filled with accomplished grapplers, including Jeff O’Lena of East Rochester, Matt Leshinger of Sayville, TJ Fabian of Shoreham Wading River, Justin Corradino of Warwick Valley, Mark West of Hauppauge (the 2010 Easterns States champion at 96 pounds), and Seminary’s Botwin.
- On the other end of the scale, Kacee Saure of Holley, the 285-pound victor, will be back at the same weight. His challengers will include two of the Empire State’s top heavyweights, Cole Lampman of Shenendehowa and Ethan Stanley of Saugerties as well the top seed, Wyoming Seminary’s Johnson, currently ranked #16 in the country by Intermat.
- The Realbuto family from Somers boasted a pair of Eastern States trophies a year ago, with Dylan Realbuto the winner at 96 pounds and Brian the champion at 135. After a state runner up finish as a sophomore, Dylan has moved up to the 113 pound class where some of the top opponents will include Raghunandan, Edgemont’s John Aslanian and Amsterdam’s Brandon Lapi.
- Intermat’s #9 overall recruit Brian Realbuto outpointed Holley’s Quinton Murphy in a high scoring 17-12 bout in last season’s finals in a matchup of state champions. This time, the Cornell-bound Realbuto will have another Eastern States winner in the bracket – Long Beach’s Dylan Palacio.
- Palacio, who took third in New York in 2011 and is ranked in the Top 20 nationally, defeated Wayne’s Tory Cain 2-1 at 145 in the Eastern States title bout. Besides the two defending champions, the 152-pound weight has some other firepower, including Seminary’s Cohl Fulk, Westfield’s Beau Donahue, Longwood’s Nick Hall, South Lakes’ Ryan Forrest and Super 32 placer John Keck from Shoreham Wading River.
Murphy became the winningest wrester in New York high school history last weekend when he captured the Niagara Frontier Officials Wrestling Tournament to earn his 276th career triumph. He has earned many titles during his career, including three state championships, but has taken third and second the last two years at Eastern States.
The Indiana recruit will look to add another crown to his resume at a loaded 138-pound class which includes another second place finisher from the 2011 Eastern States, John Glenn’s James Dekrone as well as former state placers Malik Rasheed of Longwood, Brendan Goldup of LaSalle and Anthony Finocchiaro of Canastota. Ty White of Wyoming Seminary will also take the mat at the Paul Gerry Fieldhouse, as will a long list of other top Empire State wrestlers including Shenendehowa’s David Almaviva, Westfield’s Derek Arnold, CBA/Jamesville Dewitt’s Aaron Benedict, Hauppauge’s Sam Schwartzapfel, Wantagh’s Dan McDevitt and Fox Lane’s Tom Grippi.
“138 is definitely a class that jumps out as really strong and deep,” Cuilty said. “There will be some great wrestling there.”
The same can be said of the tournament as a whole.
For a full listing of the seeds for the 2011 Eastern States, please follow the link: