By BILL CAIN
NISKAYUNA — These few weeks through the holidays are trying ones for those watching their weight, hoping not to watch it skyrocket, fueled by countless sugary treats.
Niskayuna freshman wrestler Eoghan Sweeney, though, is well-prepared for the temptations of the season, as he’s spent all of this wrestling season and some time before it on a new diet and with a new workout regimen, exhibiting the discipline to stick to both.
“I got a new diet this year to help me get through the season, get me more energy for my matches and keep me more hydrated,” he said. “And I’m working a lot harder in the wrestling room.”
He’s also been working out every Sunday morning with personal trainer Mike Parisi. The focus, Sweeney said, has been to build core strength and work on his agility.
Sweeney has been wrestling since kindergarten, but reaching the Section II Division I semifinals as an eighth-grader motivated him to rededicate himself to the sport.
In that semifinal bout, then as a 126-pounder, he was pinned by Shaker senior Blake Retell, who went on to win the sectional championship.
The reality of the situation was that he was a boy wrestling against a young man, and he recognized that before the bout.
“I wasn’t going in thinking that I was going to be able to beat him,” Sweeney said. “But I was thinking that next year, when I work hard, maybe I can get into the sectional finals.”
As of early this week he was 11-1 in his freshman season, the lone loss a 5-2 decision to an out-of-section wrestler, Austin Trombley of Northern Adirondack. Niskayuna coach Shaun Nealy has liked what he’s seen from Sweeney.
“I like the term ‘man strength,’ and he just didn’t have enough of it last year to execute the moves he knew how to do,” Nealy said. “This year, there hasn’t really been a match yet where he hasn’t had the strength to make things happen for himself. I think that’s the main difference. He’s known the sport of wrestling for a long time now, but when you’re going against men, and you’re a boy, that is a tough thing to do.”
Sweeney also has developed in the mental part of the sport, studying film and giving more attention to strategy.
“I’m starting to watch my films a lot more, from last season and this season,” he said. “I’m watching them and taking notes on what I can do better in the matches.”
His notes came in handy in a Dec. 11 bout against Ballston Spa’s Corey LaQue. He had beaten LaQue at the Ballston Spa Duals a couple weeks before their Suburban Council dual meet. He knew LaQue was going to learn from that loss and be a tougher opponent the second time around.
In the Dec. 11 rematch, Sweeney’s shots came almost like clockwork. In both the first two periods, he sized up LaQue and about 20 seconds in, made his move. LaQue tried to wriggle free from his single-leg attempts and even seemed at times primed to turn the tables and throw Sweeney, but after the two quickly traded a few attempted moves, Sweeney had LaQue on the ground and two points on the board.
“I wanted to stay away from his throws and his long arms and the funky things he can do with them,” Sweeney said.
As Sweeney has grown stronger and seen the results in his bouts, his goals needed a little adjusting.
He said he finished his match with Retell last year with the goal of reaching the sectional finals this year. Now, he aims to win the sectional title and place at the state tournament.
That would be a fine example for the young rising star to set for his teammates. Nealy counts Sweeney as one of his “Big Three” on the team. The biggest of the trio is senior heavyweight and captain Khaled Abdoun, who is the vocal leader of the team.
Sophomore Anthony Laniewski, also a sectional semifinalist last year, and Sweeney are the other two, who because of their youth are more apt to lead by example.
“The team definitely looks up to Eoghan as a wrestling leader,” Nealy said.
“They rally around his matches. He’s someone they watch, to learn from. So even though he’s younger than most of them, on the wrestling mat, he’s certainly a leader.”