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SARATOGA COUNTY — Few sports demand so much and give so little as wrestling. But as the legendary competitor and coach Dan Gable said, “Once you’ve wrestled, everything else in life is easy.” Locally, as the temperatures drop and athletes head indoors, a unique group of young men, and a few women, prepare to entertain loyal fans in one-on-one battles. Wrestling season has begun.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Frank Spatafora, a senior and captain of the wrestling team, has been on the mat since seventh grade. He started on varsity as a freshman at Saratoga High School and is also a football player, which helps with wrestling because it keeps him lifting all off-season.
“Last year, along with a couple of my teammates, I got to wrestle in the sectionals tournament, which was a big accomplishment for me,” Spatafora explained.
Spatafora said that he had an awesome football season and now he is “definitely trying to keep that momentum going” in his final wrestling season.
Spatafora is trying to maintain his weight after losing some in the beginning, though he says that “candy and ice cream” isn’t helping him.
“My goal this year is to place as high as I can in the Class A tournament and the sectionals tournament,” he expressed.
Last year, Spatafora placed fifth in Section II.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Eric Griskowitz, a sophomore at Saratoga High School, started wrestling in kindergarten and has been trying to avoid “ice cream and pizza” to maintain his weight ever since.
“My parents always thought I was a crazy kid and they wanted me to do something and not be crazy around the house, so they brought me to the wrestling room and I started in the middle of the pee-wee season and continued from there,” he explained.
Last season, Griskowitz lost in the sectionals and is hoping to take the win this year. He has won several varsity tournaments since joining the team in seventh grade.
“I’ll be hopefully getting my one-hundredth win this weekend, which will be nice,” he said.
He says that his biggest challenge will be cutting weight.
“Maintaining my weight is definitely difficult for me. I’m trying to maintain a weight that’s lower than my average body weight,” Griskowitz explained.
He also played JV lacrosse last year and is hoping to move up to varsity this season.
He is a two-time Section II place finisher for Blue Streaks wrestling.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Ryan DiGiuseppe, a senior at Saratoga Springs High School, has been wrestling since he was four years old. Though DiGiuseppe used to also play football, he did not continue this season so that he could focus solely on wrestling. He stayed in shape during the off-season by lifting.
When asked what his biggest accomplishment has been so far, he humbly said, “even just placing in a varsity tournament is a wonderful thing. Going to sectionals for three years in a row and placing twice, that’s a wonderful thing, too. It’s just amazing to be on the varsity team, it’s just a big accomplishment just to be here in general.”
DiGiuseppe had nothing but nice things to say about his coaches, led by Coach Kris West.
“They’re awesome, I love them. They push us hard. We have days where they’ll be on you about stuff, every coach does that though, and you just have to get through it. These coaches are so amazing, they’ve helped me for such a long time. They’ve had a big impact on my life,” he marveled.
DiGiuseppe has goals outside of wrestling; he’d like to be an EMT or a firefighter. If he is offered the chance, he would pursue wrestling in college as well.
BURNT HILLS-BALLSTON LAKE — Danny Jada, a senior and captain of the wrestling team at Burnt HillsBallston Lake High School, is ready to take on his fifth season on varsity.
“I love wrestling and I’ve wrestled ever since first grade,” Jada said.
His biggest accomplishment so far was placing second at sectionals last year. Being a captain requires leadership, both on
and off the mat.
“Jada is a great leader. He leads both by example and by just being a good teammate in the room and helping people out,” said varsity coach Stephen Jones.
“I really enjoy the leadership aspect. I think I try to portray a good example to the younger kids. I try and help out with the pee-wee guys when I can. I really try and put in the time to help everybody out,” Jada said modestly.
As far as his biggest challenge this season, Jada thinks of that from a captain’s perspective, too.
“Our biggest challenge is probably trying to get the team ready for bigger events since we do have a younger team this year. A lot of new guys are stepping into the varsity lineup this season,” he explained.
Jada is interested in finding a college that fits both his academic goals and one that has a wrestling team.
As far as maintaining his weight goes, he said his biggest crutch is, “probably my mom’s homemade cooking.”
BURNT HILLS-BALLSTON LAKE — John DeConno is not a wrestler who started the sport as an elementary student, in fact, he didn’t begin with the sport until eighth grade after his sisters’ boyfriend recommended he try it out.
“My sisters’ boyfriend was a wrestler. He told me, ‘you’re going to love it, you’re an aggressive kid.’ I didn’t really like sports like baseball, which is just a lot of standing around, so this is a sport that I can use my aggression and actually do something all the time. I’m always moving. I wasn’t sure about wrestling at first but I loved it right away. I fell in love with the sport from the start,” DeConno explained.
Now in his junior year of high school, DeConno thinks he has an advantage to starting a little later than some of his teammates.
“I think a lot of the kids that start early may be pushed into it. Then they can get burned out later on, but I think I started at a good time. I was mature enough, I was stronger and more grown, and I think I can perform better than a kid that may have started earlier,” DeConno said.
“Wrestling is one of those sports where you’re always welcome. John’s a good athlete and a fast learner, he wants to get better every day,” said Coach Jones. Last year’s performance was the first time DeConno placed in sectionals.
DeConno has big goals for this season, “I want to wrestle as hard as I can, learn as much as I can, and get to a state level.”
SCHUYLERVILLE – Orion Anderson, a senior at Schuylerville High School, is a three-time New York State finalist and a two-time state champion, which he achieved as a sophomore and a junior. Anderson began wrestling at age two, following in the footsteps of his older brother and sister.
“My favorite high school match was probably my sophomore year in the states final because I wanted to get that state title so badly after losing it the year before,” Anderson reminisced.
As a senior, his goal is simple: to be state champion again. He has committed to Binghamton, which offered him a full ride scholarship with an injury guarantee; he will sign his Letter of Intent in the spring.
“I’m really trying to focus on my school work this year,” Anderson explained.
The varsity team is coached by Buck Anderson, his father, and while the team isn’t large in number this year, Anderson is happy they have kids who are “definitely intense in the room and want to be there.”
“My favorite part of the match itself is knowing that there is no one else but you out there and you just have to get it done. No one else is going to help you.”