As wrestling tournaments go, the Eastern States Classic stands alone.
More than 100 teams combined to compete in close to 1,000 matches over two days at Sullivan Community College this past weekend in a tournament that featured some of the top wrestlers in the northeast. When the dust settled, Shoreham-Wading River finished 13th with 63 points. It was the fourth highest total of teams from Suffolk County. Wyoming Seminary, a prep school from Pennsylvania, won the tournament with an astounding 248 points.
“It was a pretty successful weekend for a couple of our big guns,” said Shoreham coach Joe Condon.
Shoreham senior John Keck posted the top finish for the Wildcats, placing third at 152 pounds. His only loss came to the eventual champion, Dylan Palacio of Long Beach, in the quarterfinals. Palacio, a two-time all-state wrestler, is the top-ranked wrestler in the state at 152 and was named Most Outstanding Wrestler. Palacio won a 10-1 major decision against Keck before taking down No. 1 Brian Realbuto of Somers in the finals, 8-5. Realbuto is a defending state and national champion.
Keck had an impressive run through the tournament, winning six of his seven matches. As the seventh seed, Keck won all four matches in the wrestlebacks after his loss in the quarterfinals. His third wrestleback match pitted him against Nicky Hall of Longwood, the defending county champion. Keck won 4-2 to advance to the third-place consolation finals. He won a 2-1 decision against Ryan Forrest of South Lakes to win third place.
Keck’s loss to Palacio is the only blemish to his record so far this season.
Junior T.J. Fabian placed fourth at 120 pounds. He won three matches to reach the semifinals where he lost to top-seeded and eventual champion Evan Botwin, a senior from Wyoming Seminary. Fabian fell 8-3 to drop to the wrestlebacks where he won one decision to reach the third-place consolation final.
He faced a familiar opponent in the finals in Hauppauge’s Mark West. The two faced each other in the quarterfinals and Fabian won 3-0. But the second time around West came back to win 5-1 and hand Fabian his third loss of the season.
Senior Zak Mullen placed seventh at 160. Like Keck and Fabian, his first loss came to the eventual champion as well. He won his first two matches before falling in the quarterfinals to Frank Affronti, 5-3. Affronti is ranked No. 1 in the state and is headed to Hofstra next year.
“Zak wrestled a real tight match,” Condon said. “He lost a real close decision. It went down to the very end.”
Condon said that Mullen is closing in on his 100th career victory. His losses over the weekend were the first of the season.
“I think in Suffolk County he can beat anyone,” Condon said.
In his second wrestleback Mullen had to face Hills West junior Tyler Grimaldi, the top-ranked wrestler in the county. Grimaldi won 6-0 to knock Mullen down to the seventh-place consolation final where he won to finish the tournament on a high note.
Condon said he wouldn’t be surprised to see Mullen and Grimaldi wrestling for the county championship.
For the Wildcats’ top wrestlers, the tournament provided a good measuring stick, Condon said.
“For some of my younger wrestlers, they get to see what they have to do,” Condon said. “It did open a lot of my young guys’ eyes who weren’t so successful.”
The Wildcats have two important dual meets this week, starting with a match against Mount Sinai Wednesday. If the Wildcats can win that, it could set up Friday’s match against John Glenn as for the league title.
Friday’s match is at home and will also be Senior Night for Shoreham.