NF's McDougald falls to top 145-pounder in US at Eastern States Classic

Paul Battson/ContributorNiagara Falls' Willie McDougald wrestles Hamburg's Dylan Collings in the Linda C. Knuutila Memoria Tourament at NCCC, Saturday, December, 21, 2019. McDougald took second place at 145 pounds at this weekend's 18th Anniversary Eastern States Wrestling Classic

FALLSBURG — As they always say, iron sharpens iron.

The 18th Anniversary Eastern States Wrestling Classic was held this weekend at Sullivan County Community College in Loch Sheldrake, with some local programs competing in the event. After a solid day one, four local area wrestlers placed in the event.

There were two second place finishes, with Newfane's 106-pounder Andy Lucinski losing a 5-0 decision to Brandon Cannon, who is ranked No. 11 in the country and hails from Pennsylvania-powerhouse Wyoming Seminary. The Blue Knights are the nation's top-ranked program in intermatwrestle.com's Fab 50 team rankings.

Niagara Falls star Willie McDougald also had a runner-up finish, narrowly falling to Seminary's Lachlan McNeil, by a score of 5-4. According to intermat wrestle, McNeil is the top-ranked 145-pounder in the country, while McDougald is slotted at No. 18.

Niagara Falls head coach DJ Giancola thought it was an overall great match and tournament for McDougald, especially with his positioning and fearless mentality throughout the bout. What Giancola thinks this will benefit the 2018 state champion because he can see how close things can be when in a championship level battle like this.

"Lachlan McNeil's No. 1 in the country for a reason. His positioning is phenomenal, his pace is phenomenal, his technique is phenomenal," Giancola said. "He's extremely strong. So wrestling that match, I think wrestling great competition only makes you better, I think it exposes things. When he wrestled him, he made a couple mistakes, like really, really minor mistakes. But at that caliber of a wrestler and that high level of a match, a mistake can cost you two point."

Niagara Wheatfield's Justin McDougald placed third in the event in the 138-pound bracket, as well as Grand Island's Blake Bielec coming in sixth in the 220-pound weight class.

As the heart of the wrestling season is upon us, Giancola talked about why he enjoys a tournament like this and why it can help refresh a program like his in the middle of a league title chase.

"It's perfect for the middle of the year because you've come a long way, from where you started in the season," Giancola said, whose Wolverines are deadlocked at 4-0 in Niagara Frontier League duals with GI. "And then there's still a good, long way to go. And I think to face tough challenges, to face good opponents like this ... It shows you where you came from. But also, it shows you some things, some exposure that helps you get ready for the postseason. Because at the end of the day, everything's a lesson up until how you finish the season."

With a field loaded with schools from New York, as well as others like Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Maine, and Rhode Island, there's a chance you see multiple NYS tournament reps not even finishing in the top five of their respective brackets in an event like this most years. Section VI represented well though, using this showcase as a way to sharpen skills before the climax of the season.

But for Giancola, he knows that this event is more of a tune-up than anything else.

"At the end of the day, nobody really remembers what you did at Eastern States or NCCC," Giancola said. "Everyone remembers how you did (in) the postseason."

Follow sports reporter Khari Demos on Twitter @riri_demos. Also, tune in to Khari at 10 a.m. on Saturdays on WGR 550's 'Inside High School Sports,' as well as the 'Greater WNY Sports Connection' podcast, a collaboration with Jon Simon and WNY Athletics.

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