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Robbie Williams

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Vin Miceli sizes up his opponent this past season. Photo from Mike Maletta

For the first time in five years Mattituck lost a wrestling met.

Port Jefferson handed the Tuckers their first loss in five years, 37-32, at an away meet Dec. 22. Port Jefferson also topped Mattituck its last loss five years ago, according to head coach Mike Maletta.

Matt Murphy won a 7-0 decision over David Jenkins in the deciding match at 170 pounds. Anthony D’Elia picked up a key 9-3 win over Sean Feeney at 99 pounds for the Royals, and Jack Niederburger won 1-0 at 195 pounds.

“The kids felt great about it, I felt great about it,” Maletta said. “We fought well.”

He said his athletes felt even better when he said he’d cancel practice the next two days before holiday break.

“I told them on the bus ride home,” he said. “I think they were more excited because I gave them the next few days off from practice.”

At the next tournament at West Islip, the Royals took second out of 11 teams.

“We fell short of matching Brentwood, but it’s 20 times the size of our school,” Maletta said. “I’m proud of how we did.”

Port Jefferson’s 138-pounder Vin Miceli claimed his fourth straight West Islip tournament win, and Joey Evangelista was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler for being the other Port Jefferson grappler to place first after coming in second the last couple years.

“The success I’ve had so far has really proven that all the extra hard work and long hours I put into this sport is what separates me from champion and runner-up,” Miceli said. “I have the same mentality going into every tournament or match, no matter who I am wrestling, that I am predator and not the prey.”

Other key seniors this season have been Chris Lepore at 182 pounds, Joe Longo at 160 and Robbie Williams at 120, according to the head coach.

“Chris Lepore is a senior that’s been very important to us,” Maletta said. “Robbie Williams does a lot of extra work.”

Port Jefferson hosted Babylon Jan. 3, but results were not available by press time. The Royals will face Center Moriches on the road Jan. 5 in a league title-deciding meet currently scheduled for 4:30 p.m.

“I feel very confident that we can beat Center Moriches,” Miceli said. “The way we train and the knowledge we have in our coaching staff really helps prepare us for a time like this.”

Mattituck beat Center Moriches, so if Port Jefferson wins, they’ll win the league title for the first time since 2012.

“You get nostalgic,” Maletta said. “I’ve coached Vin and Joey since they were eighth-graders, half of my time coaching here, and it’s been great to see them become young men. I only wish for good things for all of these guys. We have a lot more wrestling to go, and the countdown is on.”

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Sterling Nenninger stares intensely at his opponent before a match. Photo from Mike Maletta

“Watch out for us this year, we’re gonna be good.”

That’s what senior wrestler Matteo DeVincenzo had to say about his Port Jefferson high school team, and the New York State champion may be right.

With a 13-4 League VII record over the last three seasons and a slew of All-County wrestlers returning, the Royals have been working hard in the off-season to bring everything they can to the mat this year.

“Last year we had a bunch of holes in our lineup, [but] with all of the guys we have returning, plus the newcomers, we can spread our lineup out if we have to,” Port Jefferson head coach Mike Maletta said. “To fill out 15 weight classes in a small school is almost impossible, and we’re in a good position right now.”

Despite losing several All-County wrestlers to graduation in June, the team still has seven seasoned seniors and plenty of new additions.

Vinny Miceli has his arm raised after winning his first Suffolk County title. File photo by Deb Ferry
Vinny Miceli has his arm raised after winning his first Suffolk County title. File photo by Deb Ferry

Three guys are fighting for the top spot at the 99-, 145- and 152-pound weight classes. One of the 145-pounders is senior Alex Frohmen, who is coming off of a 28-day intensive wrestling camp in Minnesota.

“It’s not just the wrestling aspect when you go to that camp — it’s the amount of discipline you learn [from] being fully immersed in wrestling for 28 days,” Maletta said. “It’s a huge commitment and the expectations are not only for him to place, but to be on top of the podium in February.”

Frohmen also sees his teammates improving, both new and old.

“Some people are really growing and could definitely break through that threshold,” he said. “We’ve been doing a lot of sprinting, which definitely helps with our conditioning. Port Jefferson prides itself in its ability to wear down people and not be the ones panting at the end of the first period.”

At 106 pounds will be returning varsity starter Robbie Williams, who will build off of his experience from last year, when he wrestled at 99 pounds. Also at 106 pounds will be Joey Collins, whose freshman brother Jack, the quarterback of the football team, will compete at 145 or 152 pounds.

Joey Collins has Down syndrome, but Maletta said the athlete doesn’t let his condition bring him down.

“He brings a special excitement to any match that he wrestles in,” the coach said.

At 113 pounds will be returning county champion Vinny Miceli, who has almost 50 wins as a sophomore. His workout partner, Joe Evangelista, is a two-time All-Country wrestler who will be competing at 120 pounds and also has close to 50 wins.

At 126 or 132 pounds will be seniors DeVincenzo, Sterling Nenninger and Dallas Brett.

DeVincenzo is a three-time All-State wrestler and All-American, and Nenninger, also an All-County wrestler, is looking to improve on his fourth-place finish in the county last season.

“He’s our big gun,” Maletta said of DeVincenzo. “To have him anchoring the team is really exciting.”

Maletta said Brett, who was also named an All-County wrestler, is his wildcard.

“He has a funky style — he can surprise anyone,” Maletta said. “He’s never out of a match with the way he wrestles. He’s got a very unorthodox way of wrestling and sometimes he can surprise a guy with a roll or a throw and he lands on top and he can pin somebody.”

Senior Pedro Nobrega is Maletta’s “160-pound Brazilian import,” in whom he’s seen a vast amount of growth.

Chris LePore, who the head coach said is intense when he gets his motor going, will wrestle at 170. Maletta said he can see that sophomore flipping his record from last season.

Matteo DeVincenzo battles his way to his third Suffolk County title. Photo from Mike Maletta
Matteo DeVincenzo battles his way to his third Suffolk County title. Photo from Mike Maletta

Freshman Harry Cona, who Maletta said is willing to learn and attentive in practice, with great body movement for a big guy, will wrestle at 182. His fellow classmate is 152-pounder Sam Caltagirone.

All-County returner Ryan Walsh will compete at 195 and Nick Kafeiti, a junior who is new to the team, will complete the lineup at 220 pounds.

“Last year we were on the cusp of doing great things, so now we’ve been working hard over the off-season and we think we’re at that point where we can perform,” Walsh said. “You can feel the excitement in the wrestling room. It’s very positive.”

The Royals kick off their season with a tournament at Huntington on Saturday and have their first league meet on Wednesday at home against Southampton at 4:30 p.m. On Dec. 16 at 5 p.m., Port Jefferson will host Babylon on its “White Out” night. The team encourages fans to wear white, and the first 150 in attendence will receive “We Are P.J. Nation” T-shirts.

Nenninger said the expectations are high this season, and the team is sticking to its “PJ Nation” motto of not letting anyone cross its borders, while also making the Royals’ presence known despite being a smaller school.

“We face big schools and it’s not like we just give them the win — we’re always going to put up a fight,” Nenninger said. “We have such a small group of guys, but that only inspires us to work harder. We’re a group of strong wrestlers who feel we can take on the world.”