By Bill Landon
Mount Sinai not only took down Riverhead, 56-18, the wrestling team is also grappling cancer.
The Mustangs’ Jan. 6 nonleague dual meet supported school spirit and its mission: “supporting the fighters, admiring the survivors, honoring the taken, and never, ever giving up hope.” With help from the community, the team raised over $6,000 for the American Cancer Society.
Black and red rubber bracelets were sold, along with raffle tickets and baked goods. Wrestlers also sought sponsors to pledge to donate $1 for each victory. Local businesses also donate $100 and over, to be featured on the team’s Facebook page. One hundred percent of all proceeds went to the cause.
According to Mount Sinai head coach Matt Armstrong, the driving force behind the Take Down Cancer event is Matt Campo, a 113-pound freshman who pinned his challenger in the first 50 seconds of his match. Campo said he began putting the event together in early November.
“We recently had cancer strike our community, and it affected us a lot,” Campo said. “My uncle has cancer — so it draws a lot of attention [for me personally] —and I wanted to bring the community together.”
But prior to him, the Mustangs got to work early when Brendan Goodrich made short work of Riverhead’s Mark Matyka at 99 pounds. He pinned his opponent in the first period.
Following Campo’s pin, the Mustangs rattled off seven consecutive decisions, with sophomore Joseph O’Brien and junior Michael Zarif scoring major decisions to help their team break out to a 35-0 lead.
Armstrong said he was impressed with his younger grapplers.
“The biggest thing at this point in the season is getting our cardio up,” the coach said. “A lot of these guys have a lot of skill but they [need to build stamina] should the match go to overtime.”
Senior Jason Shlonsky, at 170 pounds, pinned his Riverhead opponent. He took down Lawrence Bishop in 55 seconds to put his team out front 41-0, and said he was happy to get on offense early.
“They’re a very tough team — there’s no denying that,” he said. “I always try to keep the same mind-set going into every match — I have to give them my all, no matter who I’m wrestling. I focus on my game and do what I’m good at, while trying to improve as the season goes on.”
At 195 pounds, senior J..J. Parente spoke next when he too pinned his Riverhead competitor, Aiden Fitzpatrick, in the first period, for a 53-0 lead.
“Riverhead is very good … and it was really cool that they helped us with Take Down Cancer night,” Parente said. “I think as a whole we did pretty well, but all things you can improve on. I’ll keep working, keep running and keep lifting.”
Riverhead won the final two matches by decision and took points in the final weight class as a result of Mount Sinai forfeiting.
Armstrong said he was pleased with another one of his freshmen, Ryan Shanian, who was recently brought up from junior varsity level.
“Riverhead has a lot of young kids, but so do we, and one of the kids that I was really impressed with is Ryan Shanian, who wrestled at 126,” Armstrong said. “This was his second varsity match and … he just finds a way to win.”
Armstrong said his team is peaking at the right time, and is optimistic about the postseason.
“The kids that we’ve relied on all season have done a great job, and they just keep winning,” he said. “The greatest thing that I saw tonight was everybody’s motor — they just kept going and going and if they went down they got right back up until they won — and that’s a good thing to see this time of year.”
The Mustangs improve to 4-1 overall and still sit at second place in League VII, behind undefeated 2-0 Mattituck/Greenport/Southold, at 2-1.
Mount Sinai hosts Southampton Jan. 13 at 4:30 p.m. in the last league matchup of the regular season, before traveling to Port Jefferson Jan. 21 for the final tournament of the season.