By John Albanese
(Canastota, NY – Nov. 2012) At the end of this month we will see the start of the 2012-2013 high school wrestling season begin. The sport does not have the following that basketball does but I would argue that folk style wrestling fans are loyal and have a passion for the sports intricacies that few other sports match. One of the oldest sports known to man, an Olympic sport back from its origin, a sport designed to test a man’s strength, stamina, skill and fortitude.
As you can probably guess I am an avid fan, a wrestler in my day, not a good one by most accounts, but the lessons and disciplines I learned have stayed with me to this day. When most kids were enjoying their break between soccer or football and the beginning of the winter sports season, most high school wrestlers were already at practice.
The season starts a week before the other winter sports as the athletes need to have their weight certified. Weight certification is where it all begins. Back in my day we cut weight to all extremes to get to a weight where we thought we would be competitive. Back then we were not as well informed as we are today.
So, in today’s world we have a scientific approach to weight certification: the athlete is weighed, three measurements are taken to provide a rough idea of body fat and a hydration test is performed to make sure that the athlete has not reduced his weight dangerously by method of dehydration and that the wrestler maintains a healthy level of body fat.. All those factors are taken into account via a calculation and a minimum weight is determined for each wrestler.
The state allows the wrestlers two weeks to get into shape so that they have the opportunity to get their optimum weight certification. Many wrestlers are working on this before the season even begins.
Wrestling is not a sport for everyone; the conditioning is second to none, the time required to hone your skills, the mental toughness is only what a few can master and the discipline to control your caloric intake is more than most can handle.
It is only you and your opponent inside a 38 foot circle. The focus is on you and your opponent, win or lose it is all on yourself; one mistake, one slip in timing, a slight bit of fatigue or one last flurry of last second effort is what can win or lose the match. No team mates to share the agony of defeat. No team mates to blame the loss on. Just you and you alone are responsible for victory or defeat.
Most of the local high schools have wrestling teams; generally a varsity team and a few extra JV wrestlers.
Canastota has had great success the last few years; last year sending three guys to the state tournament, Zach Zupan winning a state title, Anthony Finocchairo placing second and Travis Conklin finishing sixth, placing 11 wrestlers at the sectional tournament, two Class C champions, winning the Section 3 Div. 2 team title, winning the Class C title and winning the league and league tournament.
As last year’s Section Three Champions, the Canastota team had a definite target on its back and were considered the team to beat, with all but two of their starting lineup returning.
Locally some other teams have had some success. Matt Fisher from Oneida was a state qualifier as well as Wes Blanding from Chittenango.
Oneida has struggled with numbers leaving their lineup with several holes in it, but this year it appears that their numbers are up significantly.
Chittenango had decent numbers but last year they had a young team and this year should show some significant improvement.
Camden had a relatively strong core of wrestlers but injuries and young wrestlers last year hampered some of their efforts.
VVS should have a good line up with the majority of their lineup returning with the exception of state qualifier Brian Irvin.
Morrisville-Eaton Coach Leblanc had several years with a veteran crew on his team, but last year had a lot of holes to fill with younger wrestlers as he saw the majority of his lineup graduate.
A big change this year is the end of a long time Tri-Valley League disbanding and being absorbed into the Center States Conference. Now instead of two divisions there will be three: Division I: Adirondack, Camden, Canastota, Morrisville Eaton, RFA and Sherburne Earlville; Division II: Dolgeville, Holland Patent, Ilion, Mohawk, New Hartford, and VVS; Division III: Cooperstown, Herkimer, Little Falls, Mount Markham, Oneida, and Poland. This will make for a very competitive league that should be well represented in the post season competitions.
Next week I will present a rough preview of the season and the CSC League. After that I will be primarily covering Canastota with bits and pieces from other local teams.
John Albanese is a Canastota High School varsity wrestling coach and town of Lenox resident.