Friday February 22, 2013

ADAM SAMROV

Sports Editor

HOOSICK, N.Y. -- If Hoosick Falls Central School junior Luis Weierbach and senior Brad Burns have any say in the matter, the third time will be the charm at the New York state wrestling championships.

Both Weierbach and Burns make their third consecutive trip to the state tournament which starts today at 10 a.m. at the Times Union Center in Albany, and the pair believe their experience wrestling at the state level could make the difference.

"It’s a honor, a humbling experience," said Weierbach, who entered the tournament unbeaten this season and is the No. 1 seed at 106 pounds. "I’m much more comfortable, I know what’s going on and I’m ready."

Burns has been on the big stage as well, not only in wrestling, but also in football, where Hoosick Falls won the state championship at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.

"By now, I’m used to the big arena with wrestling and football, and you have to feed off of that," Burns said. "Hopefully others will be tentative in their first appearance. It’s a really nice feeling; I’m a lot more comfortable at states."

Hoosick Falls’ schedule was an ambitious one, competing in tournaments in the Syracuse and Ithaca areas this year. Both Weierbach and Burns won against out-of-section competition, helping them in the seeding process.

"It was a tough schedule, but we got great matches and it worked in our favor," Weierbach said.

At last year’s state tournament, Weierbach placed fifth and Burns sixth, helping Section II to a fifth-place finish in the team competition.

Weierbach reached the semifinal at 99 pounds, then scored a 3-2 double overtime win in the fifth-place match. At 182, Burns won his first match and two others in the wrestlebacks.

"Last year the goal was to make the state podium and I was satisfied with that," Weierbach said. "I’m not satisfied with anything less than a state championship. That’s the goal i’m going for."

Weierbach was the No. 1 seed during his freshman year as well.

"I wasn’t surprised about [getting it], but it scares me a little bit because I was the top seed [then] and didn’t place, but it’s not happening this time," Weierbach said. "The stadium is such a huge atmosphere it can make or break people. Brad and I going the past three years, we’re sort of used to it."

Hoosick Falls coach Landon Nelson said Weierbach is peaking at the right time.

"In terms of technique alone, he’s notches above where he was two years ago," Nelson said. "He’s been wrestling some of the best guys at [Shenendehowa] this week [during sectional practice], he was right in the mix with him and he’s going against guys 20 or 30 pounds heavier. Mentally he’s ready to go, it’s just about focusing in that environment. As long as he does, he’ll be at the top."

The senior Burns comes in with only three losses, but his weight class may be the toughest of the entire tournament. Canastota’s Zack Zupan, from Section III, was the 170-pound champion last year and moves up to 182 this time around.

"He has a really tough weight class, five or six studs," Nelson said. "He’s going to have to beat one to get to the podium. After that, he has to take it one match at a time, but he’s really going to have some battles [today]."

Unlike Weierbach, it’s the last chance for Burns to win a state championship.

"I’m a senior this year, there’s a lot on the line," Burns said. "I’m not going to get to do this next year and having that in the back of my mind pushes me to go forward."

"He doesn’t want to leave anything on the mat," Nelson added.

Overall, having the pair reach the state tournament for a third straight year is great for the future of the Hoosick wrestling program, Nelson said. The only other Hoosick Falls wrestler to do it is Jake Gardner more than two decades ago. Gardner finished runner-up in 1993, the Panthers’ best state showing ever.

"To have two guys tie the record shows where our program is moving toward," Nelson said. "It sets a benchmark for the next kids. These two are leading the way."