Teammates without any truce on mat

Niskayuna wrestlers and practice partners Anthony Laniewski, left, and Eoghan Sweeney push each other on the mat, one of the reasons both are No. 1 seeds in their weight classes.  Michael Kelly/Gazette SportswriterNiskayuna wrestlers and practice partners Anthony Laniewski, left, and Eoghan Sweeney push each other on the mat, one of the reasons both are No. 1 seeds in their weight classes. Michael Kelly/Gazette Sportswriter

BY MICHAEL KELLY
Gazette Sportswriter

NISKAYUNA — During a pause in Wednesday’s practice, senior Anthony Laniewski and junior Eoghan Sweeney never fully disengaged. As they listened to a coach’s instructions about their next drill, Laniewski’s left hand gripped Sweeney’s right elbow, while Sweeney’s right hand rested atop Laniewski’s left shoulder.

The Niskayuna wrestlers stayed ready to resume — and to make sure the other didn’t have a quick advantage when they did.

“We both go at this with the same approach. There are no truces — ever,” Laniewski said. “That’s the important thing we’ve developed. There’s never a sense of ‘Hey, this is my buddy. I’m not going to beat him up today.’ That’s the one thing we don’t do.”

That’s how it’s been now for Laniewski and Sweeney for three successful seasons. The practice partners won Section II Division I titles last season in back-to-back weight classes and are the No. 1 seeds in those same weight classes for Saturday’s sectional championships at Glens Falls Civic Center. Sweeney — who also won a sectional title at a different weight class as a freshman — leads the field at 160 pounds, while Laniewski is at 152.

“As wrestlers, Eoghan is more technical and Anthony is more rugged,” Niskayuna head coach Shaun Neely said, “but that’s not to take away from Eoghan’s toughness and Anthony’s technique. They both have both, really.”

Both wrestlers also broke the Niskayuna program’s all-time wins record this season. Sweeney actually topped 2005 graduate Louis Kiernan’s 162 career wins first, but Laniew­ski soon caught up and enters this weekend’s action with 174 wins to Sweeney’s 171. On the season, Laniewski is 37-2 and Sweeney is 36-3.

While Laniewski will likely graduate as his school’s all-time wins leader, Sweeney gets next season to earn the same distinction for himself. It’s a fitting accomplishment for both wrestlers, whose high school careers have been so strongly intertwined.

“One guy’s never continuously been better,” Laniewski said. “It goes back and forth, back and forth.”

Laniewski and Sweeney have been everyday practice partners for three seasons, but worked together before that span, too. As youth wrestlers, they each remember doing battle with the other on a number of occasions.

“We were always scrappin’ together,” Sweeney said. “We always went hard.”

Sometimes, too hard. An elbow here, a knee there — sometimes a little bit more.

“We had our little scuffles back then,” Laniewski said. “We didn’t always get along.”

That’s changed as the two boys have matured as high school students.

“Despite the tension they can sometimes build up because they’re competing against each other in the room, they have 100 percent respect for each other,” Neely said. “It’s that whole notion of steel sharpening steel.”

Away from the mat, Laniewski and Sweeney mostly go their separate ways. They’re friends, but with differing personalities and interests outside of wrestling.
“We’re different people,” Laniewski said, “but on the mat we have the same interests, the same goals.”

Besides, between tussling at each practice and spending time together at their competitions, they get their fill of one another.

“It’s more like we’re like brothers,” Sweeney said. “We’re always together.”

That’s what’s helped them reach the heights they have within their respective wrestling careers, too. Each is a talented wrestler in his own right, but the ability to consistently train together is what’s allowed Laniewski and Sweeney the chance to improve each day.

“They both wouldn’t be as good without each other,” Neely said, “and they know that.”

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Michael Kelly at 395-3109, mkelly@dailygazette.net, or @ByMichaelKelly on Twitter.