If there is one event that serves as a preview to the state wrestling tournament, it is the Eastern States Classic.
This year’s mid-January event brought together wrestlers from over 100 schools, including some from Massachusetts, Connecticut and Virginia. Included were 81 former state place winners and 13 former state champions.
“That tournament really helped my confidence,” said Colonie 11th-grader Golan Cohen, who came from the 10th seed to place fourth at 106 pounds and went on to win his first Section II championship. “A lot of the best wrestlers in the state are there.”
“He went down there with the mindset he was going to place,” said Colonie coach Jeremy Eggleston, whose 220-pounder, Jason Johnson, also used an eighth-place showing at the two-day event as a springboard to a Section II title. “A lot of time, its a confidence thing. You wonder how you stack up against some of the best kids in the state.”
Duanesburg coach Joe Bena figures an eighth place in the Eastern States got his 195-pounder, Jeff Senecal, a fourth seed for this weekend’s Division II state tourney.
“That’s where Jeff got his points,” said Bena, referring to the point system used to seed the state tournaments, which is based on past postseason finishes and in-season results against state and sectional placers.
“With Jeff not being here last year, he didn’t get a chance to get points,” said Bena, noting that Sen-ecal lived in South Dakota last year before moving back to the area. “It was a very important tournament for him.”
Shenendehowa is an annual participant in the Eastern States. That experience is a major reason the Plainsmen have won the team scoring in DI at states the last two years and four of the last six winters.
“We’ve gone to all the big tournaments,” said Shenendehowa
senior Zach Joseph, who was sixth at this year’s Eastern States and is making his second straight trip to the state tournament. “That’s the biggest, before the states.”
Shenendehowa’s once-beaten Nick Kelley and Columbia’s unbeaten 285-pounder, El Shaddai Gilmore, won ES titles in January.
“We’re battle-tested,” said Columbia coach Anthony Servidone. “Our best kids went to Eastern States, they wrestled at Madison Square Garden [in the finals of the PSAL Invitational]. Those are two pretty big stages.”
Eleven of Section II’s DI state tourney competitors placed in the top eight in the January event. Shenendehowa’s David Almaviva was third at 138, two-time state place finisher Brandon Lapi was fifth at 132 and Shen’s Levi Ashley was fourth at 182.
Schalmont sophomore Nick Gallo credits the competition at the Eastern States with his getting to the states for a third time.
“In a way, it’s tougher than states, because you’ve got guys from both Division I and Division II, and some from other states,” he said. “There aren’t a lot of pins, because every match is tough.”
Servidone has lobbied for several years to get more of his wrestlers entered in the Eastern States, which, as an invitational, allots varying numbers of wrestlers from each team to compete.
Guilderland coach Don Favro is considering trying to get his two state wrestlers — 99-pound Section II champ Josh LoGuidice and 106 runner-up Mike Lainhart — into the 2014 event.
“With the way you can send different kids to different tourn-aments, maybe it’s something we need to do,” he said.
“It would be a chance for both of them to get more competition points, and get to wrestle more of the better competition from around the state.”