LOCH SHELDRAKE — Will Leonard is hidden from sight. He’s sitting behind a beige tarp under the bleachers in the Paul Gerry Fieldhouse, headgear equipped, talking to no one. Leonard, a senior from Cornwall High School, has worked too hard for this moment to allow a lapse in focus.

Leonard defeated Dylan Gianikos 13-4 in the Eastern States Classic’s 220-pound final on Saturday, an ending that was only made possible because Leonard would accept nothing less.

When he stepped off the mat after advancing to the semifinals, he wasn’t smiling. His father, Ed, could tell he was disappointed in his performance.

Leonard isn’t one to soak in the moment. After winning the final, defeating the same wrestler whom he came back against in the same event last year after trailing 6-0, Leonard said, “I finally got what I wanted.”

Then, he followed with: “But it’s only a small step. I still have to win a state title.”

Leonard had already become the only Section 9 wrestler to advance to the semifinal, a matchup that pitted him against a wrestler that, from the looks of his height and build, would be able to take him down with ease.

It was the match Leonard struggled to overcome most, looking to Ed and Cornwall head coach Don Blaine for guidance throughout the match.

“You’ve got to attack, Will,” his dad said, pointing to his son at a pivotal point in the semifinal. “You!”

Leonard’s younger brother, Logan, watched quietly, admiring his older brother’s grit and sharing his belief that he had what it took to win.

“He’s always trying to better himself,” Logan said, “in sports and academics.”

Leonard, who will be wrestling at Division I University at Buffalo next season, also plans to major in mechanical engineering. Ed said his son keeps busy, whether he’s participating in National Honor Society, the ACE (Architectural, Construction, Engineering) Mentor Program, or going to three wrestling practices a week during football season.

Blaine's analysis of Leonard's final match could also have described the way Leonard lives his life.

“He took advantage of every opportunity that was afforded to him,” the coach said.

Blaine’s voice cracked as he added that it couldn’t have happened to a better young man. Ed fought through emotions of his own as he said he couldn’t be prouder of his son, saying this win was more impressive than winning the New York state tournament.

Ed looks forward to making the five-hour drive to watch his son wrestle at Buffalo next season, calling it a “good problem.”

Leonard, fighting off the urge to bask in his victory moments before stepping to the podium, finally gives in.

“I try to push myself harder than everyone else,” he said. “It finally paid off.”



Twitter: @jfedichTHR