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Matt Campo

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Mustangs take Division I team title with seven top-two finishers, Port Jeff's Vin Miceli places first

Mount Sinai had four first-place finishers and three second-place grapplers to take him the Suffolk County Division I team title. Photo by Jim Ferchland

By Jim Ferchland

Mount Sinai senior Mike Zarif knows how to get the job done. The 138-pounder surrendered a 3-2 lead midway through the third period, and went into overtime tied at three against Center Moriches’ Donald Wood. As the two scrambled for position late, Zarif countered a Wood takedown attempt and spun behind the Red Devils wrestler for the two points and a 5-3 win. Of seven competing in the finals, four Mount Sinai grapplers came out on top.

“My coach was telling me ‘all heart, all heart’ especially when I was getting tired,” Zarif said. “I was just trying to push the pace and just push myself as much as possible. Being a county champ been my goal since last year. I’ve been working every day for it. Winning this is such a great feeling I’ll always remember.”

Mike Zarif with his county bracket. Photo by Jim Ferchland

Zarif, who picked up his 86th career win, was named the tournament’s Champion of Champions.

The strong showing helped the Mustangs to a first-place Division II finish for the first time in over a decade at the Suffolk County wrestling championships Feb. 11 at Suffolk Community College’s Brentwood campus. Mount Sinai tallied 241 points. Center Moriches, which earned the team title last year, finished second with 222 points.

“We have a really special group of kids,” head coach Matt Armstrong said. “They just worked so hard this year. It really payed off. It’s great when you can have kids excel and do well.”

Freshman Brendan Goodrich fell just short in a 2-1 decision to Bayport-Blue Point’s Joe Sparacio at 99 pounds.

“You know it’s going to be a 2-1 match either way,” Armstrong said of Goodrich’s match. “Unfortunately, Brendan was on the wrong side of it. He’s a young kid. We’ll see him back here for the next couple of years.”

Sophomore 120-pounder Michael O’Brien picked up his 76th career victory with a 5-1 decision over Shoreham-Wading River’s Eddie Troyano, who has a career record of 91-21 as a junior.

Three matches later, Mount Sinai’s Matt Campo (126 pounds) and Joe O’Brien (132 pounds) lost in decisions.

Port Jefferson senior Vin Miceli won the 126-pound title and his 127th career win with a 4-0 decision over Campo who, finish third in the state last year.

Port Jefferson’s Vin Miceli proudly displays his bracket atop the county podium. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“It feels awesome honestly,” Miceli said about being a county champ. “It’s quite an experience to have my hand raised in front of that crowd. All the work I put in — it showed off on the mat.”

The Royals, which fell on the other side with four wrestlers losing their county matches, placed third overall with 210 points. Miceli said it felt bittersweet that he was only finalist to win for Port Jeff.

“My team put in a lot of work as well, but it honestly comes down to the mental game,” he said. “You’ve got to want it. You gotta want every minute in your match. You got to work for every takedown. Every move matters.”

Rick D’Elia was pinned by Shoreham-Wading River’s Connor Pearce in 3:40 at 113 pounds. D’ Elia is 72-21 in his career after the loss. Three matches after Miceli’s win, Port Jeff junior Joe Evangelista took the mat against Mattituck’s Jack Bokina. Evangelista lost in a 12-4 decision. He said he has no excuse for losing.

“I’ve been working for this for a while and it’s not what I planned,” Evangelista said. “I don’t know what happened.”

Mount Sinai junior 182-pounder Mike Sabella and senior 195-pounder Jake Croston both won off early pins against Port Jefferson. Sabella took out Port Jeff’s Chris Lepore in 1 minute, 52 seconds. Croston pinned Harry Cona in just 39 seconds.

The victories come just weeks after the Mustangs took the county and state team titles. The individual winners automatically advance to the state championship Feb. 23 and 24 at Times Union Center in Albany.

“The kids all support each other,” Armstrong said. “They’re a tight-knit group, and the kids that are going upstate are the upper-echelon kids. I think that we are going to represent Suffolk County very well — they truly do have a legitimate chance of placing.”

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Wrestling team has four grapplers go undefeated

The Mount Sinai wrestling team took first place at the inaugural wrestling team state championship Jan. 27. Photo by Melvyn Jacoby

Despite being just 126 pounds, Mount Sinai sophomore wrestler Matt Campo is someone his teammates can lean on.

When every win counted, Campo went 4-0 with four pins during the inaugural state dual meet championship Jan. 27, helping the Mustangs claim the first title.

“We know we’re a great team with a lot of heart, but I don’t know if any of us really felt we could win the whole thing,” Campo said. “We all work so hard during the season and sacrificed a lot, so to win this as a team means the world to all of us. I just feel very grateful to be part of this team and to have played a role in clinching this victory.”

Matt Campo. Photo by Melvyn Jacoby

He wasn’t the only underclassmen to make a big statement at Onondaga Community College. Freshman 99-pounder Brendan Goodrich, who also went undefeated, sealed the semifinal match win, 34-32 against Tioga, with a 9-0 decision.

“It was a huge win over a very tough wrestler,” said Campo, who pinned his Tioga challenger in 24 seconds to close Mount Sinai within 10 points overall. “Sometimes you just need to get the momentum to swing in your team’s direction, and I was glad to be able to get the pin and get us back in the match. Everyone started to believe we could win.”

Senior Mike Sabella’s also contributed four important wins. His pin, which came after another by teammate Adham Shata, helped keep the momentum set by Campo and put Mount Sinai back on top, 30-26.

“The team was energized,” Campo said of his team following the pins, the boys screaming from the side of the mat.

Even though getting the lead was a big boost after Sabella’s win, the senior was quick to point out the total team effort needed to take home a state dual meet title.

“Going into this tournament, coach [Matt] Armstrong made one thing clear above all else — it’s not going to be our county champion wrestlers and team captains that win us these tough matches,” Sabella said. “The fact that not only our hammer wrestlers can go out there, step up their game and get big wins in matches like that is what pushed us so far through this tournament. Kids like Adham are why we were able to take home gold.”

Behind 7-0 to start the final against Canisteo-Greenwood, Campo, who pinned all four of his challengers in a combined time of 3:31, secured his fourth win to put Mount Sinai down just a point, 7-6, and ignited another spark.

“In these types of meets, every point matters,” Campo said. “So I approached each match with the hope for a pin. Those bonus points are huge.”

Victories by Ryan Shanian and Mike Zarif (4-0) put Mount Sinai ahead 15-11, but the lead was short-lived.

“Some other teams on the Island are just a bunch of kids all looking for their own personal success, and nobody else’s, but this group is different.”

— Mike Sabella

A major decision tied it up, and a Greenwood pin put the team back in front 21-15. Like in the semifinals, it was a seesaw, back-and-forth affair. Sophomore 170-pounder Joe Goodrich escaped with a 6-5 decision, Sabella won 9-4 to tie the match 21-21 and Jake Croston got points on a forfeit.

“I’m so proud of how we wrestled,” Zarif said. “To be the best you have to do what your opponent isn’t doing, and we’ve been putting in the double workouts and extra practices to get to where we are.”

Junior David Mazzella’s 7-0 decision at 285 pounds and Brendan Goodrich’s resiliency to pull away with a close 5-3 decision and 33-24 lead ultimately earned the win. Mount Sinai was able to forfeit its final contest having already sealed the deal.

“Greenwood was a phenomenal wrestling team, and we knew from the beginning that it was going to be a dog fight,” Sabella said. “Our coaches did a fantastic job scouting out everybody we had to wrestle. We knew exactly who we were up against going into every match, and that advantage was huge.”

He said the matchups, coupled with his team’s closeness, helped the Mustangs come out on top with a historic win.

“Some other teams on the Island are just a bunch of kids all looking for their own personal success, and nobody else’s, but this group is different,” Sabella said. “Not only are we a wrestling team, but we’re a family. We all have each other’s back and are always there to pick one another up when it’s needed most. The bond we have all built with one another throughout the years we’ve wrestled is what makes us such a special group, and that bond is what makes being a Mustang so special.”

This version corrects the spelling of Ryan Shanian’s last name.

Mount Sinai grapplers are all smiles while showing off the new hardware. Photo by Melvyn Jacoby

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Jason Shlonsky pins his 170-pound opponent Lawrence Bishop. Photo by Bill Landon

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.

Mike Zarif lifts up Anthony Marcello, his competitor, who he tops in a major decision at 138 pounds. Photo by Bill Landon

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.”

Joe Goodrich controls Sean Prunty, who he pins at 152 pounds. Photo by Bill Landon

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.

Ryan Shanian slams his opponent Jared Cawley, who he beats at 126 pounds, to the ground. Photo by Bill Landon

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.

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Mount Sinai senior Leon Paul improved his record to 24-2 with a 7-0 decision over his Sayville competitor on Jan. 22. The Mustangs outscored the Golden Flashes 62-15 in the final meet of the regular season, to improve to 6-1 in League VI. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Mount Sinai senior Matt Eisenblaetter tries to escape a hold on his way to pinning his Sayville opponent at 170 pounds on Jan. 22. The Mustangs improved to 6-1 in League VI to end the season in a three-way tie for first place with their 62-15 win over the Golden Flashes. Photo by Bill Landon
Mount Sinai senior Matt Eisenblaetter tries to escape a hold on his way to pinning his Sayville opponent at 170 pounds on Jan. 22. Photo by Bill Landon

The Mount Sinai wrestling team is locked in a three-way tie at the top of League VI after taking down Sayville 62-15 on the road on Jan. 22. As the curtain drew to a close in the final meet of the regular season, Miller Place and Elwood-John Glenn also won their final games, knotting all three teams at 6-1 going into Wednesday’s opening round of playoffs.

Mount Sinai came out fast winning four of the first five matches with standout pinning performances from five grapplers, including senior Matthew Eisenblaetter, who laid out his opponent at the 3:39 mark at 170 pounds, and sophomore Jake Croston, who put an end to his match in the first period at 220. There were also two major decisions, highlighted by eighth-grader Mike O’Brien won his matchup 11-2 at 106 pounds.

Mount Sinai head coach Matt Armstrong said his team has been able to hold its own despite having three eighth-graders and 11 ninth-graders on the roster.

“The younger kids wrestle in a lot of tournaments and I have an eighth-grader Matt Campo who’s an absolute hammer,” he said.

Mount Sinai eighth-grader Matt Campo, who is controlling his opponent, improved his record to 24-1 after pinning his Sayville competitor at 99 pounds on Jan. 22. The Mustangs improved to 6-1 in League VI to end the season in a three-way tie for first place with their 62-15 win over the Golden Flashes. Photo by Bill Landon
Mount Sinai eighth-grader Matt Campo, who is controlling his opponent, improved his record to 24-1 after pinning his Sayville competitor at 99 pounds on Jan. 22. Photo by Bill Landon

At 99 pounds, Campo dropped that hammer on his opponent with a pin early in the second period. Campo was an All-League wrestler last year as a seventh-grader, and with his win, the underclassmen, whom his coach said is the future of Mount Sinai wrestling, improved his record to 24-1.

Co-captain Shane Walker, a senior at 195 pounds, also ended his match by pinning his rival a minute into the second period for his 14th pin of the season, improving his record to 19-1. Classmate Keith Williams pinned his opponent at the 1:37 mark in the 120-pound weight class.

Two-time All-League player and senior co-captain Daniel Henry defeated his foe in a major decision, 11-3, and at 160 pounds, fellow senior Leon Paul took victory with a 7-0 decision in the 145-pound weight class. Mike Zarif, a sophomore, edged his challenger 5-2 at 126 pounds.

Mount Sinai senior Daniel Henry lifts up his 160-pound competitor during his 11-3 major decision on Jan. 22. The Mustangs topped Sayville 62-15 to end the season in a three-way tie for first in League VI. Photo by Bill Landon
Mount Sinai senior Daniel Henry lifts up his 160-pound competitor during his 11-3 major decision on Jan. 22. Photo by Bill Landon

Paul, a two-time All-League wrestler who is now 24-2, said he was somewhat surprised in his matchup, because he expected more from his opponent.

“I was successful in my takedown,” said Paul, adding that he was happy with his overall performance.

Winning by forfeit was Leonel Paul, Leon’s twin brother, at 138 pounds, as did sophomore Robert Christ at 285.

“Sayville did well — they did better than I expected,” Leonel Paul said. “Our team did well, and our heads were in it tonight.”

Armstrong said that the Paul brothers are the hardest workers in the wrestling room, and have won three tournaments this year between them. Leonel Paul added that he’ll go running every day leading up to the start of the playoffs.

Mount Sinai eighth-grader Mike O'Brien maintains control of his opponent on his way to an 11-2 major decision at 106 pounds, against Sayville on Jan. 22. The Mustangs improved to 6-1 in League VI to end the season in a three-way tie for first place with their 62-15 win over the Golden Flashes. Photo by Bill Landon
Mount Sinai eighth-grader Mike O’Brien maintains control of his opponent on his way to an 11-2 major decision at 106 pounds, against Sayville on Jan. 22. Photo by Bill Landon

Also winning by forfeit was Luke Marino, a senior at 182pounds, who talked about what his team will do to prepare for Wednesday’s postseason opener.

“Were just going to be practicing like we’ve done all year” Marino said. “This is a hard working team and I think this is the year that we can do it. We showed that by placing in the top three, which hasn’t been done in 10 years at Mount Sinai.”

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