By most accounts, the Eastern States Classic is one of the premier wrestling tournaments in the country. Some say it’s the New York State Championships taken to another level, since wrestlers come from all over the country and all different types of schools to compete in it. So when a wrestler places in it, or can even win a title, it’s a big deal.
This past weekend, Eastport South Manor’s Travis Passaro won the 126-pound weight class at Eastern States, which is held at Sullivan County Community College in Lake Sheldrake, New York. Passaro wasn’t alone either, as Adam Busiello placed second in the 99-pound weight class.
It’s a huge accomplishment for both wrestlers who are no strangers to large tournaments. Both Passaro and Busiello wrestle all year long and compete in tournaments, some bigger than Eastern States.
Passaro has been to Eastern States four times now but it’s the first time he’s won a title. He was also named Most Outstanding Wrestler and Champion of Champions.
“Every time I go there it’s a real tough tournament so it felt good to win,” Passaro said.
Passaro, who placed third last year at the high school state tournament, and has verbally committed to wrestle at Hofstra, was seeded sixth in the 32-man 126-pound bracket. He won his first two matches by major decisions, then defeated Alex De La Cruz of Ossining, a former New York State Champion and the third seed in the bracket, 5-3, in the quarterfinals.
In the semis, Passaro faced off against Kevin Jack of Danbury, Connecticut, a two-time state champ who has won Eastern States the past two years and is ranked 14th in the country. Passaro defeated Jack, 3-2, in a close bout, then defeated top-seeded Michael Knoblauch of Clovis West High School in Fresno, California, 9-5, to take the title.
Passaro said he doesn’t normally change his style, but having faced Jack in the past at other tournaments, he knew he was going to have to do something different. Whatever he did worked, as the semifinal match was his toughest throughout the entire tournament.
“I had a lot of tough matches, but didn’t think I would lose any of them really,” he said.
Busiello, like Passaro, is no stranger to large tournaments. Even though he’s just a seventh-grader, he’s been on big stages like the Eastern States before, and his experience in those types of tournaments helped him this past weekend.
Busiello was also seeded sixth in his weight class and rolled through his first three opponents, winning two by pin and another by a disqualification. He defeated Jake Silverstein of Hauppauge, 3-0, to reach the finals, where he lost to top-seeded Kelan McKenna of New Hartford, 3-0.
As a team, ESM placed ninth with 67 points, the majority of them coming from Passaro and Busiello. Hauppauge was the only other Suffolk County team with a higher placement than ESM with 94.5 points. Locust Valley of Nassau County placed fourth overall with 83.5 points. Clovis West won the tournament with 129 points.
Adam’s older brother Joey Busiello (113), Nick Garone (132), Jimmy Leach (138), Sean Carey (145), Matt Defrancis (220) and Joe Zarcone (285) also competed in the tournament. Garone, seeded 11th in his weight bracket, won his first match, 10-9, over Bobby Miguel of Clovis West, but then lost his next match. He won his first wrestleback match, 3-0, over Mike Coiro of MacArthur but was eliminated in his next match.
Leach was seeded 10th in his bracket and won his first two matches before falling, 5-2, to Justin Cooksey of MacArthur in the Round of 16. He then won his first two wrestleback matches before being eliminated.
Before the Eastern States Classic, ESM had its first two League V dual meets of the season. On January 7, ESM hosted Huntington and lost, 50-22, but then came back the next day to defeat Bellport, also at home, 43-36.
The victory over Bellport was a hard-fought one by ESM. The Clippers did forfeit three matches to the Sharks’ two, but with just two matches remaining, the match was tied at 36-36. Zarcone won a marathon of a match, 5-4, in overtime over Clipper Zach Gentzel, which sealed the victory for ESM. Adam Busiello then pinned his opponent to create the final margin of victory.
Huntington won eight of the 12 matches that were actually contested, since there were three forfeits. Garone, Zarcone and Alex German (195 pounds) all won their matches for the Sharks.
ON THE SCHEDULE: Tuesday, 1/14, vs. Harborfields; Wednesday, 1/15, vs. Rocky Point; Friday, 1/17, at Islip, 6 p.m.