Underclassmen absorb where they placed and thinking about next winter. Defending state and sectional champions shoot for another title both locally and then on the state level. Guys who hoped to place, or were seeded to do so, but did not, retreat to the embrace of their families in the crowd.
Screams of joy erupt by the dozens from fan sections of the arena -- notably Fulton's.
These were some of the images I took away on Saturday, Feb. 13, when I joined the hundreds who made the trek through sub-zero weather to Onondaga Community College's ARC Arena for the Section 3 Division I and II tournaments. This was my third year in a row at the tournament, after an absence of 13 years. It was my 20th overall since 1978,
I'll have stories from that day in the next couple of weeks before the state tournament, which I will not be attending due to a conflict with a conference where I am a facilitator. I'll start with some images.
THE CALM VETERAN
I felt deja vu sometimes, looking across the mat when Skaneateles was in action, because there was Dick Campbell as head coach, and he had a Brillo on his team, as if this were 1979 or 1981.
Back then, it was Joe Brillo for the Lakers at 98, 105 or 112, where he won a sectional title in 1981. Now, it's Brillo's sons. Eric graduated, Joey was a sophomore 126-pounder this season.
Campbell is so calm as he sits in his corner, like a teacher watching his student. He said he does not yell at guys, he tries to encourage more than critique and he always used that approach.
Campbell. who also coached golf and was a top wrestling referee years ago, said he coaches Skaneateles wrestling from 1964 until 1984, then stepped down. He returned in 2000 at the behest of the elder Brillo and Tim Green, the lawyer and writer who was 1982 state champion at 215 pounds for Liverpool, whose son Thane wrestled.
Campbell was an assistant to coach T.J. Frare for four years, then took over again. The Lakers program grew from peewee to varsity status in 2004-05. The team has improved and this year went 21-0 and won the OHSL Liberty League, the first league title since the OHSL Central championship of 1981.
Skaneateles placed three wrestlers in the Section 3 tournament: junior 99-pounder JW Simmons, who was second and was the school's first finalist since Brillo in 1981; Joey Brillo, fifth at 126; and Patrick Greenfield, fifth at 182.
BEYOND THE FINALS
For every weight class -- 30 in all between the two tournaments -- six young men stood tall on the medals stand. Some beamed, some looked glum. Some had avenged losses from earlier in the season.
Facing them, for each medals presentation, were dozens of people with cameras, cell phones and iPads: parents, siblings, girlfriends, coaches. (Check out the image above.) See, 30 years ago there would have been about five of us from newspapers, plus Steve Parker, the longtime photographer. The digital age has allowed so many people the chance to try their hand at capturing an image. I marvel at it. I'm glad I spent years learning photography, and working in darkrooms, but I'm glad for those who can collect memories themselves now.
I never stop marveling at what a tough tournament this is. I watch guys dominate all season, with pins and technical falls -- then get dominated at ARC Arena. It's humbling that so many wrestlers strive for months to do their best, pit their skills against opponents week after week, and have to look for what rewards they can.
Example: One senior with a solid record hoped to place but did not. His takeaway was this: he rode out the top seed and eventual champion in the third period of their quarterfinal match. He lost but he rode through that period without getting reversed. He lost again in the wrestle-backs. This senior started wrestling in eighth grade, and he always had a way of finding some little positive, at least when I talked to him.
Some of the placewinners were champs the previous weekend, in class tournament. Some had won by pin in the finals.
Cortland senior Isaiah Brookman, fifth at 138, grinned as he accepted his medal and got a hug from his mother, who never saw one of his matches this winter because she works at night. Brookman earlier had joined the people congratulating senior Dylan Hotchkiss of rival Homer, for the pin that earned Hotchkiss third at 220.
Cortland junior Dakoatah Miller and Phoenix senior Tim Gandino had another battle at 182 pounds, this time for Division II third place. Gandino won their dual meet bout, 3-1, back in December. This time Gandino prevailed by 7-4. The two showed respect to each other afterward.
In fact, these days I am impressed by the sportsmanship of wrestlers in general. Most of them shake the opponent coaches' hands, and on the way back to their corner they give their opponent another handshake or shoulder pat or fist bump.
Miller is shown above battling Camden's Brett Finch in a quarterfinal at 182. Finch won, 6-2, went on to place second.
The bottom right picture above shows the Division II final at 152, South Jefferson's Caleb Beach riding South Lewis' Morgan Seller. Beach prevailed, 8-0.
The middle bottom picture shows Sherburne-Earlville wrestlers congratulating 285-pounder Cole Mikalunas for winning his semifinal.