Eastern States offers glimpse of state meet

Championships would be nice, but for most participants, this weekend’s Eastern States Classic is a c
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Championships would be nice, but for most participants, this weekend’s Eastern States Classic is a chance to compete in an event rivaling the state tournament.

“We want the kids to be in a big-time environment,” said Duanesburg coach Joe Bena, who is bringing the majority of his 15 starters to the tournament, which opens today at Sullivan County Community College in Loch Sheldrake. “The only thing bigger than this is the state tournament.”

“I don’t expect my kids to win, but this is a great chance for them to see where they stand against some of the best competition in the state,” said Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk coach Henry Mormile, who has entered seven wrestlers in the event, which annually draws participants from more than 50 schools, including a handful of out-of-state teams.

“It’s the whole experience,” said Mormile, who said that not winning this event last winter actually helped then-senior Nate Graham win a state title two months later. “It teaches you humility. A lot of guys in this tournament aren’t used to being in the wrestlebacks.”

Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, Amsterdam, Shenendehowa, Colonie, Schenectady, Glens Falls and LaSalle also have the event on their schedules.

For Duanesburg, one of the smallest schools in the field, it’s also a chance to knock heads with the big boys.

“Our kids want to go to this tournament,” said Bena, who had Evan Borst and Wes Coppolo take sixth and Brian Borst finish seventh last year. “We have some we expect to place, but it’s a good experience, the whole weekend, for the entire team.”

Bena’s lineup boasts four wrestlers with over 100 wins, and another two who should reach that figure soon.

Brian Borst, a three-time Section II champion, shows 161 career wins, six more than Coppolo. Dave Larson stands at 116 varsity victories, and Matt White went over 100 as the Eagles won the Stan Elinsky tourney last weekend at Deposit-Hancock.

Two-time Section II champ Amy Whitbeck is seven wins shy of 100, and sophomore Randy White shows 92 career wins.

“This group, the juniors and sen­iors especially, started on varsity when they were young, and they’ve had a lot of success,” said Bena.

Shenendehowa’s unbeaten Meys brothers, Austin (171 pounds) and Hunter (189), are returning champions, as is Amsterdam’s 22-0 Brian Benton, who went 52-1 last season as he took third in the state. He and Hunter Meys both have well over 200 career wins. Hunter Meys, who broke the national record for varsity career pins last weekend, has 228 career wins; Benton has 222.

Both are in range of Matt Herrington’s Section II record of 243 and the state record of 246.

LaSalle’s Zach Clemente placed second to Corey Jantzen of Section XI’s Shoreham-Wading River here last year, and lost to the current Harvard University starter later in the state finals. He hasn’t been beaten since.

Shenendehowa’s Popolizio brothers, Luke (third) and T.J. (fourth) also placed at last year’s Eastern States, as did teammate Seth Hazelton (fifth). Colonie’s Eliah Golding and Jimmy Neal of Glens Falls were both seventh in 2007.

Among the other top teams expected at the event are Wayne and Penfield of Section V; Shoreham, Islip and Sayville of Section XI; MacArthur and Massapequa from Nassau County; Valley Central and Monroe-Woodbury of Section IX; Section I’s John Jay; Bainbridge-Guildford/Afton, Tioga and Harpursville of Section IV; and Peru (Section VII).

Danbury, Conn., which beat Mount Anthony of Bennington, Vt., earlier this season, heads the schools coming in from out of state, a list that includes Hayfield and Westfield, Va., Timberlane (Maine) and Ludlow, Mass.

ROAD DEVILS

Columbia is taking its second long road trip of the season this weekend, busing to the Virginia Duals in Hampton, Va.

The Blue Devils went 4-3 at the KSA Disney Duals in Orlando, Fla., late last month.

“We like it,” said Blue Devils coach Anthony Servidone of the travel and competition. “It’s great for our top guys, and a chance for the younger kids on the team to get exposed to not only top-quality competition, but also the team concept of traveling and living together for a long weekend.”

Columbia, which left at 7 this morning, faces Granby, Va., at

7 p.m. in it first match in the Amer­ican Division. A win would mean a second match tonight; a loss results in an 8 a.m. wrestleback Saturday.

“It doesn’t matter, we’re going to get at least four matches, even if we have to do like last year, where we found another team, a referee and a mat and wrestled off the arena floor,” said Servidone.

Ballston Spa (Canastota) also opens a two-day tourney today, and Guilderland and Queensbury are in the two-day event at Canandaigua.

UNDER REVIEW

The proposal to expand the state qualifying system to include a

regional round did not officially gain any ground at a committee meeting earlier this week.

A committee composed of representatives from the NYSPHSAA and sectional chairmen recommended revisions for the proposal, with further action expected at a meeting in April.

The proposal would divide the state’s 11 geographic sections — plus the PSAL and CHSAA — into four regions as a way of advancing 16 wrestlers to each weight class in both the Division I and Division II state tourneys.

The earliest the regional system could be in place is in the 2009-10 season.

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