Wrestling: 7 wrestlers to watch at Eastern States

Now in its 16th season, the Eastern States Classic has grown to become one of the premier wrestling tournaments on the East Coast. It attracts many of the best high school wrestlers from New York State and beyond — six states will be represented this season — to form one massive, two-day competition. 

If you win there, you‘re well on your way to big things in the second half of the season. Many will tell you that it‘s often more difficult to win at Eastern States than it is to win a state title. 

The seeds have been released and wrestling will begin on Friday morning at Sullivan Community College, leaving one big question on the mind of wrestling fans from the Lower Hudson Valley.

Which local wrestler has the best chance of winning it all?

Last year, only , and he would have been a favorite had he returned this season. But a dislocated elbow will keep the Princeton-bound senior out of the tournament, which opens the door for others to emerge.

Based on the competition in their weight classes and their own past performances, here are the top seven wrestlers to keep an eye on this weekend: 

1. Jake Logan, New Rochelle — Without Cuomo in the field, and with Logan being the only Section 1 wrestler to capture a No. 1 seed, he represents the best chance for a local champ. Unlike several other weight classes, there are no returning state champions or finalists at 182 pounds. Second-seeded Joey Yanis of Minisink Valley and third-seeded Sammy Deprez of Hilton both qualified for the state championships last year, but neither placed. Logan, a junior, won a 3-2 decision over Deprez on his way to a fourth place finish. After a tremendous offseason, this is his weight class to lose.

2. Matt Grippi, Fox Lane — The NC State-bound senior is undoubtedly the most well-known wrestler from Section 1 heading to Sullivan County, and he’s had success on this stage with . But every year, there seems to be some highly-decorated wrestler on the other end of the bracket, and it’s no different this time around. Long Beach senior Jacori Teemer is the No. 1 seed at 152 pounds and has four state titles on his resume. Grippi, the two-seed, will be considered the underdog if they meet.

3. Halil Gecaj, John Jay-Cross River — He may have underperformed at the state championships last season, but don’t forget that Gecaj made waves at the 2017 Eastern States Classic by placing third at 220 pounds. The senior is back at that weight class this year as the No. 3 seed and has a legitimate shot to win it all if he wrestles well. The top seed, Joe Benedict of South Jefferson-Sandy Creek, was a state finalist last year, but he’s not unbeatable.

4. Ivan Garcia, Port Chester — The No. 3 seed at 106 pounds, Garcia should be in the mix, but those seeded ahead of him are both major forces. Top-seeded Anthony Noto of Honeoye Falls-Lima is a defending Division II state champ and second-seeded Matt Griffin of Jamesville Dewitt took third in Division I, pinning Garcia during last year’s state tournament. The sophomore would need to pull off two upsets to win it all, but he should be high on the podium.

5. Jacob Ferreira, Horace Greeley — As the No. 6 seed at 182 pounds, Ferreira is certainly behind Logan in the pecking order. But in a weight class which is less established than most, the Bucknell-bound senior has an opportunity to shake things up and make a name for himself. He made it to the podium at Eastern States last season and is a strong bet to do so again.

6. Len Balducci, Pleasantville — A recent loss to Garcia makes Balducci Section 1’s second-biggest threat at 106 pounds, but he remains a serious contender. Seeded fifth, the sophomore came on strong at last year’s state tournament and has a very bright future. A top-five finish would send a message heading into February. 

7. Colin Realbuto, Iona Prep — His older brothers Brian and Dylan are both former Eastern States champs, but Colin has learned that he wrestles his best . The Brown-bound senior made drastic improvements in the past year, enough to earn himself the No. 5 seed at 138 pounds. There are no former New York State champs at that weight, but Burlington’s Josh Lee, a three-time Massachusetts state champ, lingers as the No. 1 seed.

7 more to watch: Horace Greeley’s Matthew Schreiber (No. 11 at 99); Arlington’s Dennis Robin (No. 8 at 106); Pawling’s Jack Wrobel (No. 11 at 145); Pearl River’s Jack Chesman (No. 5 at 152); Horace Greeley’s Aaron Wolk (No. 6 at 160); Fox Lane’s Johnny Santos (No. 8 at 195)

By