“He wanted to say some words, and he jumped at the chance,” said Shell. “He gets it – that it affects everybody.”
Blatnick’s Olympic performance inspired others in the Capital District including a young Jason Morris, who went on to compete at four Olympics in judo. Morris became friends with Blatnick in the 1990s.
“I was a fan of his. Then it became a mutual respect thing because we were both Olympians, and then it became friends,” said Morris.
Blatnick and Jones brought the BH-BL wrest-ling team to Morris’ Glen-ville judo center last year for a clinic that bridged the two sports’ worlds. It was something Blatnick was familiar with, having worked in the mixed martial arts world both as a commentator and a judge.
“I could see why he’d want to get involved in MMA because it is a challenging sport, and he loves a challenge,” said Bena.
Now, all of those sports worlds – as well as the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake and Niskayuna communities – are mourning Blatnick’s death.
“I think his loss to every community he was involved in will be huge,” said Morris. “He was very innovative in everything he did. There’s nothing that’s going to fill that.”
“Jeff was a lot of things to a lot of people,” said Bena. “He’s a hero, he’s a champion, he’s an ambassador to the sport of wrestling, (and) he was a role model to younger wrestlers.
“He was one of us, and now he’s gone. And you don’t replace that with something else.”
Blatnick was laid to rest Monday in Niskayuna following a service at Our Lady of Grace Church in Ballston Lake.