I’ll be back soon with a ton of videos, but here is my story from the final day of the Eastern States Classic at Sullivan Community College:
LOCH SHELDRAKE — Confidence can be a funny thing.
When you have it, you can will your body to do things that you never thought it was capable of. When you don’t, bad results can snowball quickly.
Tappan Zee’s John Hartnett was lacking confidence when he was bounced early from last year’s state tournament after losing his first two matches, but he showed how good he can be when wrestling with self-belief on Saturday at the Eastern States Classic.
“At states last year, I got knocked right out – like a one-two punch,” the 220-pound senior said. “Today, I probably wrestled the best that I’ve wrestled so far this season. Wrestling (third-seeded Sam Eagan of Churchville-Chili) and (second-seeded Cortes Morales of Clovis West) definitely showed me that I can compete with these guys – I just have to keep going to a level higher.”
Hartnett upset the second and third seeds on his surprise run to the finals, where he was pinned by defending state champ Rich Sisti of Monsignor Farrell.
He was one of only two Section 1 wrestlers to reach the finals, along with North Rockland junior Blaise Benderoth.
“I’m not done yet,” Hartnett said. “I need to continue to train hard.”
Benderoth was losing late in his 152-pound semifinal against Shenendehowa’s Jesse Porter, but pulled off the upset win thanks to a takedown in the final minute.
He went onto lose a 3-0 decision to Springfield Central’s Richard Viruet in the finals, but placed higher than any other New York state wrestler in his weight class.
“I knew my coaches were relying on me to get to the finals, because that’s what we’ve been saying all week,” Benderoth said. “We’ve never had an (Eastern States) finalist in North Rockland history, so I knew what I had to do. I put my foot on the pedal a little bit more and just took him down at the end.”
Coming into the tournament, Ossining senior Alex Delacruz and Pearl River senior John Muldoon were considered the wrestlers from Section 1 who were most likely to compete for a title.
Muldoon lost a 5-4 decision to Hauppauge’s Chris Mauriello in the semis, which could have been a state finals preview. Muldoon and Mauriello are currently the top two ranked Division 1 wrestlers at 132 pounds in the state.
“This is a pretest,” said Muldoon, who went onto place third. “It’s great, but nobody really remembers who wins Eastern States. They think about the big (state) tournament at the end of the year, and if I do catch him in the states and things go my way, then a lot of people are going to forget about Easterns.”
Delacruz was competing at 126 pounds, which many considered to be the deepest weight class in the tournament.
It featured two-time Connecticut state champ Kevin Jack of Danbury, the top-ranked 126-pounder in the New York in Eastport South Manor’s Travis Passaro, an all-state wrestler from California in Clovis West’s Michael Knoblauch, and Delacruz, a defending New York state champ.
“It wasn’t a good draw, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. If you’re meant to win, you’ll win,” said Delacruz, who went onto take fourth after losing a 5-3 decision to Passaro in the quarterfinals. “I wanted to win it, and I thought I could win it, but there’s still some things that I need to work on; some things that I need to tweak. Hopefully, I’ll be able to fix them and better myself.”
Tappan Zee senior Mike Manni took third at 285 pounds by defeating John Glenn’s Edwin Rubio, whom he had lost to twice in overtime in the past week. John Jay-East Fishkill senior Brett Perry (182 pounds) also took third.
Arlington senior Alfredo Olmedo (99), North Rockland senior Matt Caputo (138), Somers senior Dom Celli (160) and Brewster senior Gino Gioielli (170) each took fourth in their respective weight classes.
Beacon senior Andrew Grella took fifth at 195 pounds, beating Section 1 rival Brock Cvijanovich of Horace Greeley with a 9-5 decision in wrestlebacks.
Photos by Frank Becerra Jr./The Journal News