LOCH SHELDRAKE — Tyler Serafini’s nose wouldn’t stop bleeding. There were cotton pads, tissues and even a trash can. As his match neared its end but the blood flow would not, his coaches offered the best advice they could.
“Go out there and try something,” the Newburgh senior recalled being told.
The Eastern States Classic at Sullivan County Community College brought some of the best high school wrestlers in the country into one building Saturday, giving Section 9 wrestlers a chance to gauge where they’re at and how far they truly have to go to reach their best.
Armel Duke, a Middletown junior wrestling in the 220-pound weight class, won his final match of the day, pinning his opponent in 4:39. The win got him seventh place, which Duke said wasn’t the result he expected, but was better than nothing considering the caliber of competition he was up against.
“It was tough,” Duke said. “I thought I was comfortable at first in the beginning, but I took a loss. I really had to battle back so I could place.”
Minisink Valley, a school coming off a Section 9 Division 1 title on Wednesday, uses the Eastern States Classic to find out where the team’s weaknesses lie. Head coach Kevin Gallagher said the tournament also provides the team an opportunity to introduce some of his younger wrestlers to different styles among schools Minisink only has a chance to see once a year.
“If something works really well and then all of a sudden you come here and figure out it doesn’t work, you’ve got to figure out why,” Gallagher said.
Minisink seventh-grader Zack Ryder, who placed fifth after pinning his Cooperstown foe in 2:25 in the 106-pound class, said the Eastern States Classic is the most grueling tournament he’s ever attended.
Ryder said his secret for placing was not letting the losses get to him.
“It’s just mental toughness. When other people lose, they break down. It’s all in the mind,” the precocious middle schooler said.
Ryder’s teammate, junior Sean Savacool, said despite losing a match, he was determined to place. In the blink of an eye, his final opponent was pinned, earning Savacool seventh place in the 138-pound class after a match that only lasted 42 seconds.
He said it’s the team mentality instilled in him to keep grinding that kept him hungry after a loss. He couldn’t be intimidated by the competitiveness of the field because he saw a goal and wasn’t willing to let anything deter him from it.
“I didn’t know who he was,” Savacool said, breathing heavy from his quick pin, “but I just went out there and did my best. It’s what I do.”
Serafini, who lost his final match of the day — placing eighth in the 170-pound class — said being in a situation in which he gets knocked down and has to overcome it only makes him stronger, not only as a wrestler, but as a person.
“It’s a little tougher than your average tournament,” Serafini said, the blood on his nose just beginning to dry as he added, “It’s a lot tougher than your average tournament.”
To round out the section, Valley Central senior Mark Crisfield placed sixth at 220 pounds, Cornwall senior Steve Gazzillo took eighth at 160 and Newburgh Free Academy junior Maxx DeCapua was eighth at 195.