|Senior Danny Kornberg will be competing for Edgemont in this
year’s Eastern States Classic.
January 11, 2012
Written by Vincent Z. Mercogliano
As the annual Eastern States Tournament at Sullivan Community College in Loch Sheldrake continues to grow in stature and popularity, so does the impact of Section 1 wrestlers at what has become the go-to regular-season tourney in the state.
In the decade since its creation, the Eastern States has become one of the most prestigious tournaments in the Northeast ? attracting top teams from all over New York and beyond.
?This is the pinnacle besides the state tournament,? Somers senior Brian Realbuto said about the event, which takes place Friday and Saturday. ?It?s where you want to peak in the middle of the season. They?re doing a great job of drawing. Usually at least two of the top five in the state (from each weight class) are there, so it?s tough.?
Last season, there were multiple champions from Section 1 for the first time ever. Along with Realbuto, his younger brother Dylan, Fox Lane?s Steven Rodrigues and Suffern?s Nick Oliveto gave the section an impressive four individual champs. Previously, Section 1 had only three champions combined over the years.
The feat shows how far local wrestlers have come on the state level. Some would argue that winning an Eastern States title is even more difficult than winning a state title, where large schools and small schools are separated into two divisions. At Eastern States, schools from both divisions are combined, along with private schools, Catholic schools and out-of-state schools.
?We had a need for this when they went to the two divisions, and that?s what really helped this tournament take off,? tournament director Jeff Cuilty said. ?When you have a Division 1 kid win a state title, and a Division 2 kid win one, they can look over at each other and say, ?We know who the real champ is because we wrestled at Eastern States.? ?
The amount of quality wrestlers who compete on Friday and Saturday at Eastern States is staggering. Out of the 30 wrestlers who claimed New York state titles last season, 18 wrestled at Eastern States. This year?s field includes 12 defending state champs, 17 runners-up and 50 other state-placers.
?This is the best field that we?ve had,? Cuilty said. ?Our problem is that we?re kind of maxed out. We cap it at 575-600 kids, or else it becomes totally unmanageable. We currently have 101 teams represented, and I?ve got another 170 on the waiting list.?
While there will be 20 of the stronger teams in Section 1 represented at this year?s tournament, there are still some deserving wrestlers on the outside looking in. Hen Hud, for example, is stuck on the waiting list, despite having two wrestlers with strong chances of qualifying for states in Phil Siegel and Sean Barry.
Fox Lane, which has won three of the past four Division 1 section titles, even had trouble gaining entry when it first tried five years ago.
?The first year we couldn?t get in,? Fox Lane coach Joe Amuso said. ?Then the next year they gave us three spots, and the kids we brought up did very well, so they increased our position the following year.?
Based on how well a team performs at Eastern States, it can earn the right to bring more wrestlers. Some teams may bring only one, while others may bring close to 10.
The Foxes placed third overall last season ? the highest finish ever by a Section 1 team. They?ve lost Rodrigues, but bring back three wrestlers who placed in the top four in their respective weight classes last season (Sam Speno, Danny Ventura and Matt Pasqualini). In total, Fox Lane will bring nine wrestlers this season.
?It?s going to be tough for all of them,? Amuso said. ?It?s good, stiff competition, so whoever is sharp will come out on top. You can?t have an off day up there.?
Other local wrestlers who are returning to Eastern States after placing at the tournament last season are Edgemont?s Trey Aslanian, Mahopac?s Jake Srednicki, Nanuet?s Anthony Calvano, New Rochelle?s Nick Barbaria, North Rockland?s Blaise Benderoth, Ossining?s Alex Delacruz, and Brewster?s Mike Parise.