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Centereach

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Suffolk County Police Major Case detectives are investigating a robbery that occurred April 26 at a Centereach bank.

A man entered the Capital One Bank, located at 2100 Middle Country Road, at approximately 3:25 p.m., displayed a note and verbally demanded money. The teller complied with the suspect’s demands and gave him cash from the drawer. The suspect fled the bank on foot.

The suspect was described as a white male in his mid to late 20s, approximately 5 feet, 6 inches to 5 feet, 8 inches tall, with a very thin build and a buzz cut. He was wearing a black and grey hooded-sweatshirt, black baggy pants, a black baseball cap and wool fingerless gloves.

Detectives are asking anyone with information on this robbery to call the Major Case Unit at 631-852-6555 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS.

Centereach's Eric Russo hurls a pitch from the mound. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Behind solid pitching and timely hitting, the Centereach baseball team was able to hold off Huntington, 6-4, at home April 10, despite back and forth lead changes.

Centereach’s Ryan Mahnke grabs the ball to apply the tag to Huntington’s Steven Napurano. Photo by Bill Landon

Trailing by a run, Centereach third baseman Ryan Mahnke slammed a base-clearing, stand-up double to left center that plated teammates Nick Corsaro and Steve Krauth for a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the first inning.

The Blue Devils countered in the top of the second when Justin Italiano drilled the ball through the gap, and Will Vollack sprinted home to tie the game.

In the next inning, Vollack’s bat cracked again when he sent the ball to right center, scoring Steven Napurano from second, as Huntington retook the lead. With two outs, the Blue Devils looked to stretch their lead with runners at the corners, but the batter was caught looking to end the inning.

After another Mahnke double, first baseman Sean McGuinnes sent the ball into the air, which was carried by the wind to help send Mahnke across home plate to retie the game, 3-3.

“Both teams played hard,” McGuinnes said. “I thought Huntington would be [tough] after their win against West Islip, but we did well today.”

Centereach looked to break the game open, and with an infield hit by Robert Maina that loaded the bases with one out, it seemed as if it could be done. If Luke Eidle, Huntington’s starting pitcher, felt the pressure, he didn’t show it. He retired the Cougars’ next two batters to get out of the jam.

Centereach’s Sean McGuinnes makes contact. Photo by Bill Landon

Huntington right fielder Ethan Copp smacked a pitch deep to right center next, to score. Italiano scored from second base to again take the lead, 4-3, in the top of the fourth.

“They had the timely hits, and we didn’t,” Huntington head coach William Harris said. “We left a lot of runners on base, so it’s a tough loss for us today. It’s a lost opportunity. They had some good pitching today, and that kept them in the game.”

Centereach went back to work countering when Corsaro doubled to start things off. Krauth’s bat spoke next, as the left fielder hit the ball deep, just dropping in to plate Corsaro to retie the game. Despite a Huntington conference on the mound, Mahnke ripped his third stand-up double of the afternoon, driving in Corsaro as Centereach edged ahead 5-4.

“Our team pulled out the win,” Mahnke said. “We hit the ball timely with two outs, and [starting pitcher] Eric Russo did his job and that gave us a chance to win.”

Huntington’s Ethan Copp swings for the fences. Photo by Bill Landon

Centereach designated hitter Brian Honka singled into the gap next to bring Mahnke home for a 6-4 advantage.

Again, Eidle loaded the bases when he walked Maina, but the Blue Devils’ defense rose to the challenge, as all three Cougars were stranded to end the inning.

Centereach’s Ed Bassett relieved Russo, and Huntington fell into new-pitcher jitters, as the Blue Devils laid off the pitcher, which proved costly as he threw strike after strike. Forced to make contact, and with a runner on third, the Blue Devils threatened, but the Cougars’ defense was more than ready.

“Today they came to play — they can hit from No. 1 to No. 9 — they put the bat on the ball,” Centereach head coach Michael Herrschaft said of Huntington. “Eric [Russo] did a gutsy job for us is how I would describe it. Then, Eddie [Bassett] coming in and closing us out throwing strikes — that was big for us — not walking anyone and letting us make a play. He did what he’s supposed to do and that was awesome.”

Centereach traveled to Huntington April 12 for the second game of a three-game series, but results were not available by press time. The two will face off at Centereach again April 15 at 3 p.m.

The new state standards limit the amount of pitches an athlete can toss in a given day, while allotting a certain period of rest time for each increment of pitches. File photo by Bill Landon

By Desirée Keegan

With elbow injuries running through all levels of baseball at an almost epidemic-like rate, baseball coaches in New York will now have state mandated standards to adhere to in handling their young pitchers. Although a step in the right direction, some coaches don’t think the new rules go far enough.

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association unveiled its first stab at guidelines coaches and their pitchers need to follow last December. The regulations include pitch counts — there’s now a cap of 105 in a single day at the varsity level — and nights of rest needed for various pitch-count tiers, before a pitcher can return to the mound.

File photo by Bill Landon

“Action by the NYSPHSAA Executive Committee is a giant step forward in doing our part to protect and support our student-athlete baseball players,” state baseball coordinator Ed Dopp said in a statement. “We will continue to monitor and adjust the pitch-count rules in an attempt to always improve opportunities for our student-athletes and address safety as best we can.”

Pitch counts are also in place for junior varsity and middle school pitchers. Junior varsity players cannot exceed 85 in an outing.

Four nights of rest are mandatory for varsity players throwing between 96 and 105 pitches. Three nights are required for those throwing between 66 and 95 pitches; two for 31 to 65 pitches; and one for up to 30 pitches. The limits change in the postseason, where the maximum pitches allowed at the varsity level jumps to 125.

“These pitch-count rules are a Band-Aid on a problem that is 2 feet wide,” Ward Melville head coach Lou Petrucci said. “What makes these doctors think that it’s alright for a young kid to throw three days in a row, while it’s under a certain amount of pitches, but Mariano Rivera, who is a trained professional, can’t do it? Big leaguers don’t pitch on the third or fourth day.”

Petrucci also pointed out the fatigue pitchers endure when throwing a particularly strenuous frame, say 30 pitches in one inning, noting the rules don’t take that into account. He also had a problem with the fact that freshmen and seniors, all adhere to the same rules.

“You can bring up an eighth-grader and he can throw 105 pitches on varsity — it doesn’t make much sense,” Smithtown East head coach Ken Klee said. “It should be about development.”

File photo by Bill Landon

Another imperfection is pitching on any mound other than in a high school game is not taken into consideration — when a student-athlete practices, warms-up, if he takes part in an outside league, travel team or showcases.

“One of the biggest criticisms is the amount of outside baseball that kids play,” Port Jefferson head coach Jesse Rosen said. “It’s difficult to keep track of, but it’s about communication. I’ve encouraged kids to ask their travel coaches to communicate with me. It’s going to be a necessity.”

Centereach head coach Mike Herrschaft said the speed at which a pitcher throws should also be taken into consideration.

“There’s a correlation between how fast they throw and the rest they need,” he said. “If I had a kid throwing in the 70s and everything’s healthy I might feel comfortable with them throwing 105 pitches and going on the sixth day, where if I had a kid throwing 90 mph, I’m never comfortable with them pitching on the sixth day.”

For some schools, especially those in the lower leagues, the pitchers are typically the best player on the team and play multiple positions when they’re not on the mound. This too can wear out an arm, and isn’t measured in the first round of rules.

“I never let my pitcher catch or my catcher pitch,” Herrschaft said. “Those have been my standards, especially more recently with the increase in Tommy John surgery and concerns.”

For schools like Kings Park, they need to have athletes play multiple positions. But most coaches try to limit their throwing in one way or another, or give those players more rest.

“To totally get them out of the lineup I think it’s impossible,” head coach Mike Luzim said. “It would negatively impact the normal day-to-day lineups and getting a team prepared to win.”

File photo by Bill Landon

Other new rules include if any pitcher at any level reached the count limit in the middle of an at-bat, he will be allowed to finish that hitter; both teams are required to track pitches on the official NYSPHSAA form and confirm after each inning; and at the game’s conclusion, a pitch count form will be signed by both team’s coaches or designated representatives, and a record will be used to determine which pitchers are available for future games.

“There’s room for manipulation,” Klee said. “It should be put in a database where everyone can see it.”

An app called GameChanger is one that tracks this, and other stats, and is used by many coaches across Long Island, like Klee and Luzim.

“Virginia and Kentucky both mandate that high school teams use GC for this very reason,” Game Changer representative David Kennedy said. “We would love it if New York did the same. It would streamline the process and allow each team to oversee pitch counts for players.”

Luzim said it could eliminate discrepancies that could make a difference throughout the season.

“Right now, everything goes by the home book, so if there were a number that was off by one or two pitches it goes back to the home book, and what if the home book is off by one pitch? And that’s a 95 instead of a 94? That could change the number of days and that could lead to problems or arguments,” he said. “I think there will be a million different scenarios that come up this year that will have to be looked at.”

Other tricky scenarios include a game postponed due to darkness and doubleheaders. Currently, when it comes to doubleheaders, a hurler competing in the first game cannot pitch in the second.

“It would be reasonable to have a kid close the end of the first game and then maybe pitch a couple of innings in the second game,” Rosen said.

File photo by Bill Landon

Klee disagreed.

“I think that if they throw once that day they shouldn’t come back — it’s dangerous,” he said. “I would be an advocate for making it even stricter, meaning less pitches and more rest.”

He also doesn’t like the wording of a “nights” rest, which was changed from a days rest. To him, there’s a loophole there that could count the night after the game as all the rest that’s needed.

Luzim said he’d like to see a cap on the amount of pitches per week.

“You can still end up throwing in a kid who pitches 95 pitches, right below the last level, and they could come back on the Thursday game and throw 105 pitches on that Thursday,” he said, “Then, they could really come back on that following Monday. So they could really end up throwing over 300 pitches in one week.”

For now, the coaches are just happy to see New York is trying to regulate the game to protect players.

“I get that they’re trying to address the problem, but we need to address the problem with more substantive thinking,” Petrucci said. “I think people today don’t trust the coaches. We’ve been doing this quite a while. Us coaches care about these kids, and we’re going to continue to push for their safety.”

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Suffolk County Police Sixth Squad detectives are investigating a fatal motor vehicle crash that killed a pedestrian in Centereach March 27.

Gabrielle Gallagher was driving a 2001 Ford Focus south on Mark Tree Road, just north of Linda Drive, when she struck a male pedestrian who was standing on the side of the road. The pedestrian, Dominick Geraci, 84, of Selden, was pronounced dead at the scene by a physician assistant from the office of the Suffolk County medical examiner.

Gallagher, 27, of Centereach, was not injured and remained at the scene.

The vehicle was impounded for a safety check and the investigation is ongoing.

Across from left, David Ebanks, Michael Barnum, Abigail Jones and Logan Aybar were named Middle Country school district’s students of the month for March. Photos from Middle Country school district

The Middle Country Central School District honored students of the month for March at a recent Board of Education meeting.

Centereach High School senior David Ebanks, Newfield High School senior Michael Barnum, Dawnwood Middle School sixth-grader Abigail Jones and Selden Middle School sixth-grader Logan Aybar were recognized for their academic and athletic achievements, perseverance and positive attitudes.

“Each month, it brings all of us here at Middle Country Central School District such joy to celebrate the remarkable accomplishments of our students,” Superintendent of Schools Roberta Gerold said. “Watching our students grow brings an overwhelming feeling of fulfillment. Their successes here are just the beginning, and we can’t wait to watch all they accomplish in the months and years to come.”

Ebanks was chosen for his academic excellence and consistent “can-do” attitude — even in the face of obstacles. Teachers and administrators have recognized him as a respectful young man who walks around the school with a smile on his face, brightening the days of all who interact with him. Despite his wide range of successes academically and in extracurricular activities, he has remained humble.

Last month, he was honored during the Town of Brookhaven’s Black History Month celebration, recognizing him for his outstanding academic accomplishments throughout his high school career. Ebanks continued to thrive academically even while challenging himself by enrolling in college-level statistics and English courses during the current school year. Due to his hard work, he will graduate this June with an Advanced Regents diploma.

Ebanks has also left an invaluable mark on Centereach High School through his efforts as a peer tutor and his active role in the Bible club.

Barnum’s journey during his time at Newfield has been one of great success and resilience. Following his freshman and sophomore year achievements, both in the classroom and on the basketball court, he received unimaginable news in March 2015. He was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He spent the next 11 months keeping up with his academics through home teaching — even while facing intense chemotherapy treatment.

His diagnosis never altered his steadfast commitment to his studies and trajectory of excellence. He is in remission, and will be graduating on time this June with a potential to graduate with over 18 college credits.

During her first two quarters of middle school, Abigail has maintained a 98 GPA, with high honor distinction, and is an active member of jazz band and art club. Outside of school, she finds time to participate in dance, Girl Scouts, volleyball and piano. Her favorite subject is science, because of the hands-on experiments and interaction with her peers.

Logan’s academic excellence during his first two quarters as a middle school student earned him high honor roll. Although he enjoys all of his classes, his favorite class is math because he relishes the challenge of solving complex problems. He is an active participant of the science club and also enjoys attending after-school fitness intramurals. In his free time, Logan plays in soccer and basketball leagues and volunteers to prepare and deliver meals to homeless shelters. He is recognized as an attentive, genuine student who is a pleasure to have in class.

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County Police arrested one person during multiple New York State Liquor Authority inspections at various Town of Brookhaven businesses.

Officers from the 6th Precinct Crime Section and 6th Precinct Community Support Unit conducted underage alcohol checks March 9 at 24 businesses throughout the precinct.

Buenaventura Benitez, 43, of Smithtown, employed by NY Food & Drink Inc., located at 2505 Middle Country Road in Centereach, was arrested for unlawfully dealing with a child in the 1st degree under the state penal law, and prohibited sale to a person under 21, which falls under the NYS ABC law.

Benitez was issued a field appearance ticket and a summons and is scheduled to be arraigned at First District court in Central Islip at a later date.

Twenty-three additional businesses in Centereach, Coram, East Setauket, Port Jefferson Station, Stony Brook, Miller Place, and Mount Sinai were inspected and refused to sell alcohol to a minor.

Michael St. Jeanos is all smiles with his new Canine Companions for Independence assistance dog Jiminy II and his mother Laurie. Photo from Canine Companions for Independence

Puppy raisers in Centereach are sad to see Jiminy II go, but glad to see he’ll be going to a good home upstate.

Heidi and Andrew Cavagnaro are four-time Canine Companions for Independence volunteers, currently raising puppies Hardisty and Paolo II. Canine Companions for Independence — a national nonprofit organization providing trained assistance dogs for children, adults and veterans with disabilities — matched Jiminy with Niskayuna resident Michael St. Jeanos, who is receiving his second assistance dog from Canine Companions.

Michael was matched with Jiminy, a two-year-old black labrador retriever who has been trained to respond to over 40 advanced commands.  Jiminy can turn light switches on and off, open and close doors and retrieve dropped objects. However, one of his most important jobs will be to provide constant companionship for Michael, after his first assistance dog, Anton, passed away last year after 10 years of loving service.

“Jiminy is a very special dog and we hope to have many wonderful years with him.”

—Laurie St. Jeanos

The Cavagnaro family raised Jiminy from an eight-week-old puppy, and said goodbye to him after a year and a half of training.  Heidi and Andrew worked to teach the dog basic commands, and all-important socialization skills. When he was old enough to begin advanced training, Jiminy was returned to the Canine Companions Northeast Training Center in Medford, where he worked for six months with the organization’s nationally renowned instructors, learning the over 40 commands.                  

Michael and Jiminy were matched after completing Canine Companion’s recent Team Training Class, an intense, two-week course held at the organization’s training center — one of six such centers nationwide. The Northeast Training Center serves a 13-state area from Maine to Virginia.

Each student who attends Team Training – held at each center four times a year – is paired with a fully-trained, working assistance dog, like Jiminy, and is taught to work with his/her canine companion. The training course consists of daily lectures, exams, practice and public outings.

Michael and Jiminy are now settling into a routine back home.

“Jiminy is a very special dog and we hope to have many wonderful years with him,” Michael’s mother Laurie said. “We can’t thank Heidi and Andrew Cavagnaro enough.”

Canine Companions for Independence is the largest nonprofit provider of trained assistance dogs, with training centers in New York, Florida, Ohio, Texas and California. The group has placed over 5,000 assistance dogs.  There is no charge for the dog, its training and on-going follow-up services.  For more information, visit www.cci.org or call 1-800-572-BARK (2275).

Stephen Ruth Jr. reached a plea deal for tampering with red light cameras, which will place him on probation for a year in lieu of prison time. Photo from Stephen Ruth Jr.

The merry adventures of Suffolk County’s “Red Light Robin Hood” continued last week as the Centereach resident who took matters into his own hands by tampering with red light cameras across county intersections struck a plea deal with prosecutors. The agreement reached will place him on interim probation for one year in lieu of any prison time.

Stephen Ruth Jr., who has been crusading against the county’s red light camera program since 2015 in an effort to “take the power back” by exposing what he considers government corruption and helping save Suffolk resident’s lives — for which he’s been called a domestic hero on social media — pleaded guilty in Riverhead Feb. 8 to a felony charge of criminal mischief.

Red light cameras along Route 25A, which is where some of the cameras were located that Stephen Ruth Jr. tampered with. File photo by Elana Glowatz

Since the county first installed red light cameras at busy intersections in 2010, which snap flashing photos of cars that run a red light or don’t come to a complete stop before turning right on red, they’ve been widely opposed across the county.

Ruth, who’s become the boastful face of the opposition — as evidenced by his smiley mug shot after first tampering with the devices in 2015 —has consistently called for the program’s repeal before the Suffolk County Legislature. He said the cameras and shortened yellow lights, “shortened to cause red light running for a profit,” are responsible for fatalities and accidents on the roads, have been illegally constructed without an engineer signing off on them, and are nothing more than a Suffolk County “money grab.”

“I was willing to go to jail from the beginning because I’m sticking up on behalf of those people who don’t have a voice anymore,” Ruth said. “These cameras are completely illegal and the [county] is not allowed to collect any money off them whatsoever … I knew this was going on and made my own news.”

Under the plea deal, Attorney David Raimondo said if Ruth successfully completes his probation, the felony plea will be dropped to a misdemeanor.

Stephen Ruth Jr.’s mug shot. File photo from SCPD

The 44-year-old real estate salesman may also have to pay up to $85,000 in restitution for all the cameras and equipment he’d left inoperable — a charge that will be challenged during a restitution hearing in April. Raimondo said he and his client will fight because “we believe that the entire red light camera system program is illegal and every single ticket issued from day one is a nullity.”

In the wake of the court ruling, Raimondo acknowledged that it was a good plea.

“This is something the county has to atone for and will atone for in civil litigation … it is not Stephen’s or his family’s cross to bear,” Raimondo said. “Why should Stephen sacrifice his personal freedom for what I think is nothing more than enterprise corruption?”

As Ruth has always worn his criminal tampering and obstruction of governmental administration as a badge of honor — even proudly demonstrating on his YouTube channel how he uses a painter’s extension rod to reach high-positioned red light cameras to turn its lens away from the road — Raimondo applauded his client for always taking responsibility for what he’s done.

“While I absolutely don’t condone or approve of any form of violence or destruction of property, I admire Stephen’s willingness to bring attention to the public the failures in the engineering behind the camera and how it’s affecting the taxpayers as a penalty and tax,” he said. “I [especially] admire that Stephen brought to the public’s attention the fact that the yellow light times have been shortened by the engineers because unfortunately people have been seriously injured and perhaps killed as a result.”

Red light camera. File photo

Ruth, in calling for a full investigation into the camera program to prove it’s an illegal operation, also wants to spotlight that the county continues to delete videos of any and all accidents that take place at intersections.

James Emanuel, a retired Suffolk County police officer, has dedicated himself to researching and testifying against the program, and is one of Ruth’s avid supporters.

“I’ve spoken to a lot of police officers who privately are a big fan of what he did,” Emanuel said. “You get to the point where you have to push back against the system; you just don’t have a choice. The guy saw a danger and his attitude was, ‘I’m gonna push back.’ He turned himself in every single time and he didn’t have to do that.”

In regards to Ruth’s plea deal, he said the county wants to prevent the program from being put on trial.

“There are thousands of infuriated people,” he said. “How would they find a jury of 12 people that wouldn’t find Stephen not guilty?”

Suffolk County Leg. Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) said she understands Ruth’s strong feelings and acknowledges that red light cameras, although useful in some intersections, are overused and costly.

“I think what Ruth thought he was doing was making a statement, and he clearly did make a statement,” she said. “But you have to stay within the parameters of the law to make a statement that’s not going to get you in big trouble.”

 

By Bill Landon

Colin Powell once said “success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty and persistence,” and the Smithtown West boys’ basketball team has used dedication and determination to attain another success this season. On Feb. 13, the Bulls outscored Centereach 59-29 on senior night in the last game of the regular season to remain perfect, at 14-0, in League III.

Smithtown West’s seniors started the game off strong, despite four not seeing much playing time this year. Will Kass started the three-point flurry with a shot that gave the Bulls an early 8-0 lead, but Centereach junior forward Chris Witherspoon drained back-to-back 3-pointers to make it a two-point game with just over two minutes left in the opening quarter. Centereach would come no closer.

Even with a different starting five, the Bulls found their rhythm early. Juniors Chris Crespo and Michael Gannon, and senior Gordon Shouler added shots from beyond the arc to help Smithtown West take a 34-13 advantage into halftime. In total, Smithtown West had eight 3-pointers from six different players.

“Our effort is what won this,” Crespo said. “Our seniors gave 100 percent effort and we executed all game. I’m really just in awe as to how we played together as a team tonight.”

Centereach senior Josue Chery opened the third quarter with a trey of his own, to bring the score to 34-16, but Smithtown West’s defensive pressure was more than the Cougars could handle. That pressure keyed in mainly on senior Jon Agostino, who is usually a double-digit scoring threat. Smithtown West held its coach’s nephew to just three points.

“I thought the defense was the best part of our game tonight,” Smithtown West head coach Mike Agostino said.

The Bulls continued to bank 3-pointer after 3-pointer, as senior Justin Durcan, Crespo and Gannon swished their shots to break the game open at the end of the third.

“I was just happy that all of our guys got to play,” Gannon said. “We have four seniors who don’t play as much and it was fun to watch them play well.”

Durcan finished atop the scoring sheet with 14 points. Crespo followed with 11 points, Gannon added nine and senior Chris VanderBrink tacked on seven.

“I think coming out hot and confident — even though we’re not the regular starters — that’s what made us so comfortable,” Durcan said. “It’s our preparation. We work hard every day in practice even if we don’t see much playing time, and I think we work harder in practice than any team in our league, and that helped us today.”

The loss eliminated Centereach from postseason play. The Cougars finished the season with a 9-11 overall mark and 6-8 record in league play.

The Bulls, who clinched the league title with their win over Copiague on Feb. 2, finished with the best boys’ basketball record in the county, at 19-1. Only one other team, Center Moriches, finished undefeated in conference play.

Heading into the postseason on a 15-game winning streak, Crespo said his team will maintain it’s winning attitude.

“Once we know who we’ll play,” he said, “the coaches are going to show us the personnel, what they run and what we have to do to defeat them.”

But Durcan said his team will remain composed as the No. 4 Bulls prepare to host No. 13 Lindenhurst Feb. 18 at 1 p.m.

“We’ve just got to stay poised and don’t expect to win, but the county championship is what we’re shooting for,” Durcan said. “Even though we’re up there [in the rankings], we’ve got to stay humble and hopefully our games will speak for themselves.”

The big guns brought it home for Mount Sinai.

John Parente won by a major decision, 12-0, at 195 pounds, and Bobby Christ edged his opponent, 4-3, in the finals to propel Mount Sinai to a second-place finish behind Half Hollow Hills West at the Bob Armstrong wrestling tournament at Port Jefferson Jan. 21.

“I told them if you want to wrestle in the county tournament this is the last time to show us what you’ve got,” Mount Sinai head coach Matt Armstrong, who is also Bob’s son, said he told his team. “A freshman that just came up, Adam Shata, had a big win at 160 pound with a solid pin, so we have some freshmen that are really stepping up.”

Jahvan Brown at 138 pounds and Neil Esposito at 145 pounds, made some noise and, according to Armstrong, are wrestling well for this time of year despite their inexperience. Although neither made it to the finals, four other Mustangs did. The team had nine place in total.

“We’re turning it around here toward the end of the season.”

—Robert Alberti

Northport finished with 168 points, just behind Mount Sinai, which finished with 174.

Unlike the Mustangs, the Tigers brought it home in the finals, as all three representing the blue-and-gold took home tournament titles.

“We’re turning it around here toward the end of the season,” Northport head coach Robert Alberti said. Seven of his other wrestlers placed.

Junior Jake Borland, a 113-pounder, is currently ranked sixth in the county in his weight class. He topped Mount Sinai’s Matt Campo, 9-2, who is a returning county champion.

“We expect him to win every time he goes out,” Alberti said of his grappler. “It was a good test for him leading up to counties.”

Borland placed third in the Armstrong tournament last year, and brought his A-game this time around. He won his first match with a pin, and the next two by technical falls.

“I feel confident scoring points,” he said, adding that he knew he had to have a strong mentality and wrestle smart to win in the finals, using his fireman’s carry, duck under and high crotch to help him gain points.

Borland said he can see improvements in his game from last season.

“I got better at getting out on bottom, because last year I struggled with that,” he said. “Now I get right up. Right after [Campo] took me down I got out and took a shot, and I got him right to his back and scored. I got two for a takedown and three for back points and from there I started scoring.”

“[Kenny Cracchiola] wants to make an impact and he’s really done it. He’s beaten some really good guys and overall, matchup-to-matchup, he continues to be a dominant wrestler.”

—Garry Schnettler

At 132 pounds, junior Chris Esposito clinched the championship title with a 9-2 decision over Ward Melville’s Rafael Lievano, who is currently ranked third in the county. Esposito beat his opponent last weekend as well.

“That was a good statement for Chris to come out and beat the kid for a second time in a row,” Alberti said. “He’s showing the county that he’s here to wrestle, and he’s not going to be happy without winning.”

Esposito was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler after recording the most pins in the least amount of time. He pinned his first opponent in 20 seconds, his second in 59 and his third in 1:30, before sizing up his final foe. He said he came into the match knowing what he needed to do, and he wanted to prove that his win last weekend wasn’t a fluke.

“I knew the first time I wrestled him I didn’t wrestle as good as I could,” Esposito said. “Mentally, every time I go out to a match I’m calm, no matter what. I always want to score first, but even if I get scored on I never lose it; I remain calm and keep working.”

Billy Shaw was the final champion for Northport, who won 6-5 over Mount Sinai’s Joe Goodrich at 152 pounds. It was the grappler’s first tournament win.

“He had a tough match at North Babylon on Friday wrestling the No. 1-ranked kid in the county — he got beat up a little bit,” Alberti said. ”So for him to come out the next day and win his first tournament as a varsity wrestler is good for him. For him to turn around is a testament to his hard work.”

Ward Melville finished fourth with 136 points. In a unique and rare scenario, Kenny Cracchiola beat teammate Richie Munoz by a technical fall, 16-0.

Cracchiola went 4-0 on the day, winning three of his matches by technical falls and the other by a pin.

“I shoot single legs to take them down and on top I do a variety of different tilts for back points, which rack up points for me pretty quickly,” he said.

“Even before I step on the mat I’m always focused on wrestling, nothing else distracts me.”

—Vin Miceli

Unfortunately, he had to use these moves against his teammate, but he said he liked seeing two Patriots make it to the finals in the same weight class.

Port Jefferson followed in fifth place with 126.5 points, and sent seven to the podium.

Vin Miceli edged Centereach’s Luis Fernandez, 6-4, and was named the Champion of Champions. He had two pins as he battled his way through the bracket.

He said he focused to be able to bring home the gold.

“Even before I step on the mat I’m always focused on wrestling, nothing else distracts me,” he said. “I put in a lot of work in the off-season, so it really shows how much you can get out of the work you put in.”

Joey Evangelista edged Half Hollow Hills West’s Joe Costa, 3-0, for his title at 145 pounds. He pinned his first three opponents, but said his finals match was tough.

“My coaches have preached mentality is everything, so I’ve been working on strengthening that,” he said.

According to head coach Mike Maletta, the junior has been a finalist in every tournament this season, and won two.

“As long as they both stay aggressive and take smart shots and pushing the pace, they’re going to be real successful in three weeks when they’re up in Albany,” Maletta said of the possibility of the Royals competing for state titles. “The excitement is that some guys are starting to exceed expectations.”

Centereach finished in seventh with 93 points. Jett Tancsik outscored his Half Hollow Hills West opponent 9-4, for the 160-pound championship title.

Centereach head coach Ray Bruno said he was pleased with his team’s performance. He said the tournament is a good tune up to get ready for the Cougars’ matches in the League III tournament.

“This is probably the 10th year for this tournament and I appreciate them doing it keeping my dad’s memory alive.”

— Matt Armstrong

Rounding out the scorers in the top 9 were No. 8 Harborfields with 88 points, and Comsewogue with 39.

According to Matt Armstrong, his father coached at Port Jefferson from 1969 to 1990, where they were league champions for eight years and won the New York State championship cup in 1986.

“They had some very successful teams here at the time,” he said. “It’s great to come back here as I see a lot of people I haven’t seen in a long time. Many of the kid’s parents wrestled for my dad. This is probably the 10th year for this tournament and I appreciate them doing it keeping my dad’s memory alive, it’s Mike Maletta who keeps it going, and he does a great job.”

Borland said his Northport team has exceeded his expectations, and he’s looking forward to rounding out the season with the final dual meet of the season Jan. 27 at Smithtown West at 6:45 p.m., before heading to Syosset for the Battle of the Belt tournament the next day.

“Coming into this year I thought we were going to be absolutely terrible,” he said. “I thought we were going to have three good kids and we were going to be that team that gets beat up on, but I realized we have a few freshmen that are going to make very good wrestlers. We’re a young team, but we’re doing damage.”

Bill Landon contributed reporting

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