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Vinny Altebrando with his wife Kristie and their four daughters. Photo from Kristie Altebrando

When it comes to handling students, the teachers, administrators and faculty members at South Huntington school district have a new mantra these days: WWAD, or “What Would Altebrando Do?”

It’s a tribute to a man who, as a physical education and special education teacher and renowned varsity wrestling coach at Walt Whitman High School for the last 15 years, consistently went out of his way to make students and student-athletes’ lives better — particularly the “underdogs” that struggled in and out of school.

Vincent Altebrando was somebody who once bought a tuxedo and prom ticket for a wrestler who came from a broken home and couldn’t afford them, and then dressed in a tuxedo himself, picked up the teenager and chauffeured him to the big event. He was a beloved local whose nine-hour wake service last month drew a crowd of 3,000 people, where hundreds more had to be turned away.

Vinny Altebrando, who was Walt Whitman’s wrestling coach, on left, with state champion Terron Robinson during the state tournament. Photo from Terron Robinson

The renowned coach, a Miller Place resident who died April 20 at Stony Brook University Hospital after being diagnosed with HLH, a rare autoimmune disease, at 51, had a big heart and an infectious laugh, an affinity for belting out Beatles songs, and a tough-love competitive spirit that not only put the district on the map athletically, but helped his players beyond the sport. There really was nothing he wouldn’t have done to help his students, according to those closest to him.

“He was always about the kids,” his wife Kristie Altebrando said. “He was always doing things for them. And just when you thought it was enough because his plate was full, he found more room on it. He’s changed a lot of lives.”

Both in school and at home, she pointed out, referring to their four daughters, each of whom compete in sports, from lacrosse to volleyball and field hockey.

“With his attitude, grace, helpfulness and encouragement, it’s all made them who they are,” she said. “I just hope he’s looking down, knowing that while he was alive he was doing all this for people.”

Robin Rose, Walt Whitman’s head varsity football coach and childhood friend of Vincent Altebrando’s, said the wrestling coach had a myriad of accolades. He won the sportsmanship award at this year’s Suffolk County Wrestling Coaches Association ceremony.

 “The best compliment is that Vinny turned athletes into state winners and he helped non-athletes become winners themselves,” Rose said. “He’s a guy this district can’t replace.”

Altebrando also played a large role in launching adaptive physical education and a Special Olympics program for the district’s special needs students.

Vinny Altebrando and his youngest daughter Mirabella. Photo from Katie Altebrando

“It’s an amazing void that he leaves in the school,” fellow Walt Whitman physical education teacher and childhood friend Scott Wolff said. “He was this big, tough, sweet guy; this big center of life in the building and that’s gone now, so we’re all trying to fill a little piece of it — just by building up spirits, being nicer to each other, spending more time with the kids who are struggling. I can already feel the effects.”

Wolff and Altebrando, who was raised by his mother and older brothers after the death of his father at a young age, both went through the Middle Country school system; graduated from Newfield High School a year apart; and were hired at South Huntington Elementary School on the same day in 1994. According to Wolff, Altebrando has been the same since he first met him.

“Vinny was always the best guy to be around — fun, humble and knew how to make everybody feel comfortable and special,” he said.

Terron Robinson, 19, knows that about the coach perhaps better than anybody.

The 2017 Walt Whitman graduate first met his coach as an eighth-grader as a budding wrestler. Robinson said he’d long been cast aside by teachers and other students at school due to his family background — two of his brothers had been to prison, and he thought everybody assumed he’d wind up there as well. He lost his mother at a young age and by the time he was in ninth grade, his father and a brother died, too. It didn’t take long, however, for him to have somebody to turn to.

“In my eyes, that man [Altebrando] was like my father,” said Robinson, who, under the guidance of Altebrando, was a state champion wrestler by 11th-grade. “He saw the good side of me when nobody else did. He was always there for me no matter what. Without him, I’d probably be in a jail cell.”

Altebrando made sure Robinson always had food and clean clothes. He pushed him to do well in school and treat everybody with respect. He took Robinson to the doctor when he was hurt. The coach would even take it upon himself to drive every morning from his home in Miller Place to where his student-athlete lived in Mastic Beach, pick him up and take him to school in South Huntington — where the two of them often worked out together before classes started.

“There was no greater bond I’ve seen between coach and player than the one they had,” Walt Whitman high school athletic director Jim Wright said. “Vinny just saw him as a kid with potential, as a wrestler and also as a person. He brought out the good qualities in Terron and turned him into a citizen.”

Vinny Altebrando, on right, with his oldest daughter Anjelia, who will be attending his alma mater, Springfield College, in the fall. Photo from Katie Altebrando

Altebrando graduated from Newfield High School in 1984. He was a star athlete on football and wrestling teams, the latter being a somewhat lackluster sport in the district before he came along.

“Then it became an event to go to,” Wolff said, laughing.

Altebrando went to Springfield College in Massachusetts, where he wrestled and received a degree in physical education.

It was during a hectic commute from his first teaching job in Brooklyn that Altebrando bumped into an old familiar face — his future wife — from his high school days.

“We took the train home together and we were engaged within a month,” Kristie Altebrando said. “He was my lifeline, my go-to guy … and it’s overwhelming to see the outpouring of love from so many people for what he’s done and see how many lives he’s touched.”

Natalia Altebrando, 13, a North Country Road middle school student and goalie on a travel lacrosse team, said her father taught her on and off the field how to find courage and strength, and to be kind to others.

“He made such an impact on my life,” she said. “This has broken my heart in a thousand pieces, and the only one who would [normally] be able to fix that for me is him.”

Altebrando’s oldest daughter, Anjelia, 17, will be following in her father’s footsteps and attending Springfield College in the fall.

“He was my role model and really pushed me to work hard for what I want,” she said. “He let me know that anything is possible.”

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Port Jefferson 126-pound senior Vin Miceli maintains control over his opponent. Photo from Section XI

By Desirée Keegan

Down 7-0 in the state wrestling semifinal with 50 seconds left, a switch flipped for Vin Miceli, leading to him wrestling his best, most exciting match of his career when it mattered most.

Vin Miceli embraces head coach Mike Maletta, on right, and gets a pat on the back from brother Nick, on left, after his semifinal come-from-behind win. Photo from Vin Miceli

“I remember watching a match a week prior to states when another wrestler was down six points in the third period with short time left, and ended up coming back and winning the match,” the Port Jefferson senior 126-pounder said. “So I said to myself, ‘Why can’t I do this?’”

He started letting his opponent get up for one point, only to take him down for two. Doubling up on points, he finished the match ahead 12-10, guaranteeing himself at least a second-place finish.

“It was one of the best feelings ever winning that match,” Miceli said. “Something I will never forget.”

The No. 3 seed was taken down twice early in the final and pinned in 1:33 by Schuylerville’s Orion Anderson, who won his third straight state title at Albany’s Times Union Center Feb. 24. Even knowing his challenger’s pedigree, the Bloomsburg University commit didn’t let Anderson’s credentials stymie his confidence, or his eagerness to get out on the mat and wrestle in the last match of his high school career.

“I knew my opponent was going to be a challenge, and I knew he was going to come out at me aggressive, so I had to do the same back,” Miceli said. “I was super excited to be able to wrestle in the New York state finals, but was also a bit sad knowing that was my last high school match ever. Being able to wrestle on that stage is not an opportunity everyone gets, so I was definitely pumped to be there.”

Port Jefferson senior Vin Miceli sizes up his opponent. Photo from Section XI

Head coach Mike Maletta pulled his varsity athlete up from middle school in eighth-grade, after he went 11-0 the year prior. Miceli is one of the youngest wrestlers to exceed 20 wins in Port Jefferson history as an eighth grader, and finished his Royal career with 140 wins, second to 2016 graduate Matteo DeVincenzo (148).

“When Vin gets beat, he gets up, stands tall and comes back for more,” Maletta said. “That semifinal match was a culmination of that work. He said he wasn’t going to be denied. For him to get the reward for what he’s worked so hard for is satisfying for all of us. He knew it was his time.”

By the end of his career, Miceli evolved from the young varsity grappler he once was. He earned a spot in the state tournament his freshman year, but went 1-2. He lost in the county finals his sophomore and junior years, missing a bid to states, but this time around, he knew he was ready for a different result. The 126-pounder said he wrestled 80 offseason matchups, squeezed in double practices and private lessons on Sundays, and even saw a nutritionist to make sure he was strong and healthy at the weight he was competing at, while cutting his weight the right way, because he’d struggled with that in the past.

“I knew I was well prepared for this moment and I wasn’t letting anything stop me from getting on that podium,” Miceli said. “I knew I did everything I could to make sure I was 100 percent ready to go up there and compete.”

Vin Miceli has his arm raised after a state tournament win. Photo from Section XI

His father, Joe Miceli, said what he enjoyed most was seeing his son Nick, a former Port Jefferson wrestler, out on the mat by his brother’s side as an assistant coach, especially during the semifinal match.

“Seeing the two of them out on the mat celebrating after that win was really special,” Joe Miceli said. “Losing was frustrating in his sophomore and junior years, and he wanted to make sure he put the work in to get back up there again. Wrestling and dedicating himself the way he has, built a lot of character in him and made him very self-dependent. It’s sink or swim out there, and he developed well. This season was more than anyone expected.”

Vin Miceli said the sport has taught him many valuable lessons, and he’ll remain proud to don the purple and white, even if he was in Section XI blue and white up on the podium.

“Wrestling has made me the person I am today,” Miceli said. “Wrestling is not only a sport, but is something that will help you grow and mature as a person and change the way you look at things in life. I was able to make bonds with friends that will never be broken, and memories that will never be forgotten. Winning matches has been one of the best feelings, but it’s more about knowing that all that work you have put in has paid off. Being on that state podium is always something I dreamed if and worked for, and now I can say that standing up there is an awesome feeling.”

Port Jefferson’s Vin Miceli, third from right, stands atop the Division II 126-pound podium. Photo from Vin Miceli

Rocky Point's wrestling team took the Section XI tournament title for the second straight season. Photo by Jim Ferchland

By Jim Ferchland

Rocky Point’s Anthony Sciotto used his laser focus to come out with a 6-2 decision at 120 pounds in the county finals.

“I stay calm and collected during my matches,” said Sciotto, who picked up his 52nd win of the season and 189th of his career. “When I get stressed out and overthink my matches, that’s when I don’t do as well. I really go out there and do my thing.”

Rocky Point’s Anthony Sciotto and Corey Connolly with their tournament hardware. Photo by Jim Ferchland

The senior’s victory over Eastport-South Manor’s Zach Redding propelled Rocky Point to the top of Division I at the Suffolk County wrestling finals at Suffolk County Community College’s Brentwood campus Feb. 11. The Eagles, which finished with 137.5 points, took home their second straight team title.

Sciotto will be heading to the Naval Academy after he graduates.

“It’s been a dream since I was a little kid,” Sciotto said about joining the Navy. “I’ve always wanted to serve my country.”

Five matches later, junior Corey Connolly faced off against Half Hollow Hills West’s Anthony Dushaj and pinned him in the final seconds of the third period (5:48) for his 49th of the season and 153rd of his career.

“This was my best season most definitely,” Connolly said. “The journey has been amazing. I train with Anthony Volpe [an assistant coach and former Rocky Point 160-pound star] every day and he just pushes me where I go to be.”

Rocky Point head coach Darren Goldstein said it was a tough competition, but he wasn’t surprised that Sciotto and Connolly were at the top of the podium.

“Suffolk County is always a grind,” Goldstein said. “We were blessed in 2009 and 2010 to have three win it and then go on to win states. Anthony Sciotto, he’s been at this a long time with his second straight county title. Corey Connolly didn’t place in this tournament ever and had a huge chip on his shoulder. He’s really worked hard with our coaches. They had a game plan, they stuck to the game plan, and when you do that good things happen.”

“Anthony Sciotto, he’s been at this a long time with his second straight county title. Corey Connolly didn’t place in this tournament ever and had a huge chip on his shoulder.”

—Darren Goldstein

Volpe was one of those Eagles to travel upstate in 2010, and won. The five-time league champion is one of only three Rocky Point wrestlers to eclipse 200 wins.

Hauppauge sophomore Danny Mauriello hit one of the biggest moves of the tournament when he reversed Patchogue-Medford junior Ryan Burgbacher with five seconds remaining for the 5-4 win and the 145-pound title.

Sophomore Thomas DiResta of Kings Park reeled off five straight wins from an unseeded position, including a 3-0 upset of top-seeded Luke Smith of Hauppauge to capture the 99-pound title. The two battled through two scoreless periods before DiResta scored a third period escape for a 1-0 lead with 1:35 left in the match. Smith went for a dump and DiResta countered the move and scored his own takedown with 15 seconds remaining.

“We thought we could slow down Smith’s offense by being aggressive and keeping him in check,” said Kings Park coach Clark Crespi. “We felt we could close the gap with Smith and if Thomas executed our plan we felt he could be successful.”

It was redemption for DiResta, who was beaten by Smith, 8-0, during league action, and 11-2 in the League V finals.

Sciotto and Connolly will travel to Albany for the state championship Feb. 23 and 24 at Times Union Center.

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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

Mount Sinai beat out Port Jeff, 45-28, for the county Division II title. Photo from Mount Sinai wrestling

By Jim Ferchland

Two quick pins ignited a spark for the Mustangs, and now they’re off to Syracuse.

The Mount Sinai wrestling team earned big wins from 195-pounder Mike Sabella and 220-pounder Jake Croston en route to a 45-28 victory over Port Jefferson for the Suffolk County Division II title. The Mustangs will travel upstate to compete in the first state title team championship Jan. 27 at Onondaga Community College.

Mount Sinai’s Mike Sabella puts pressure on his Port Jeff opponent. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“We wrestled two of our better kids,” Mount Sinai’s 18-year head coach Matt Armstrong said of the Jan. 20 meet at Bay Shore. “They have been steady, and that really got us going. We knew we had to come out and win those matches. Now, our goal is to place well in states — that would be exciting for a town like Mount Sinai.”

Sabella, ranked No. 1 in Division II with a 26-4 record, said for him, getting that first win for the Mustangs lifted a huge weight off his shoulders.

“It’s always stressful starting out the first match in any dual meet,” Sabella said. “Going out there and getting a win for my team was awesome. It was going to encourage the rest of my team to hopefully do the same.”

From weight classes 138 through 160, the Mustangs scored 18 consecutive points, giving them a commanding 45-18 advantage.

Mount Sinai’s Mike Zarif escaped from Port Jefferson’s Joe Evangelista to win a close match. Photo by Jim Ferchland

Junior Joseph O’Brien pinned Ryan Robertson in 3 minutes, 47 seconds in the 138-pound weight class. Senior Mike Zarif won a tight 2-1 decision over senior 145-pounder Joe Evangelista. Yusuf Azeem, a junior 145-pounder, beat Joe Longo with a 9-6 decision and sophomore Joseph Goodrich pinned Lucas Rohman in 2:36 seconds.

Zarif, right behind Sabella ranked second in Division II with a 28-3 record this season, usually fights at 138 pounds. He said he was asked by his coach to wrestle Evangelista, one of Port Jeff’s big guns.

“My coach came up to me and said, ‘We need you to knock off one of their best kids,’ so our team could have a better chance of winning,” Zarif said. “I just got ready with no preparation. Joe’s a great opponent. It was a good match.”

Port Jeff head coach Mike Maletta said Evangelista is one of the best wrestlers he’s ever coached, but his match was a turning point for Port Jeff.

“He is one of the best guys I’ve had in the 10 years I’ve been coaching,” Maletta said. “He gets called for a slam. It is what it is. The guy fell on his head and it changes the match. The guy escaped on him, and that’s the match.”

Maletta said he wanted to win one more match than Mount Sinai. Port Jeff won six matches to Mount Sinai’s nine.

Mount Sinai’s Joe O’Brien dominates before pinning his challenger. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“Once we feel we hit a certain spot in our lineup, we know we are going to win,” Armstrong said. “We definitely have solid kids. They stepped up and they did well.”

With two major decisions and two pins, Port Jeff trimmed the deficit to nine, 27-18, but couldn’t contain Mount Sinai the rest of the way.

Maletta said Mount Sinai was a great opponent, but he knows his team is full of competitors.

“We’re a good Port Jeff team,” he said. “We got pinned in six places — our best guys didn’t do what they were supposed to do. For us to beat Mount Sinai, everything had to work out right. It didn’t happen.”

Despite the loss, Maletta is confident in his guys competing at the league and county individual championships in February. For Sabella, his eyes are set on the matches this weekend. No. 2-seeded Mount Sinai will be  facing Falconer (No. 7) and Gouverneur (No. 10) in Division II pool play. Out of the four pool plays of three teams each, the winners will compete in the semifinal round and then move through the bracket from there.

“I think we should be a team others are scared of,” he said. “We are going to go up there to make some noise.”

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By Jim Ferchland

After Corey Connolly’s match-clinching win, he jumped in the arms of assistant coach Anthony Volpe. In that moment, the entire Rocky Point team surrounded them knowing what they just achieved.

“It was amazing,” Connolly said of helping the Eagles to their third consecutive Suffolk County dual meet title Jan. 20 He pinned Brentwood’s Hugo Vasquez in 1 minute, 35 seconds to give his team a commanding 37-3 advantage. “I’m so happy. I’ve waited my whole life to be county champ, and now it’s here. Training with these guys all season — hard work, it actually pays off.”

Rocky Point’s wrestling team beat Brentwood at Bay Shore High School, 37-33 even after chosing to forfeit the final five matches.

“I’m going to wrestle until we clinch,” Rocky Point head coach Darren Goldstein said was his mentality, chosing to protect his final grapplers by not competing if they didn’t need to. “Then when we clinch, we are going to walk off the mat. We are going healthy upstate.”

Senior Jake Pohl (27-10 record) got Rocky Point heading in the right direction when he earned a 5-0 decision over Jean Jasmine at 285 pounds. The Eagles cruised from there.

“It felt really good just knowing I went out there and got the job done,” Pohl said. “Once one person gets going on our team, everyone else gets going. It’s a train you can’t stop.”

Nick LaMorte, a seventh-grader and youngest on Rocky Point’s roster, won in a dazzling 12-9 decision over Fernando Romero in the 99-pound weight class to keep the train rolling.He scored a reversal and two back points in the final 13 seconds for the comeback win.

“It gave us momentum,” Goldstein said. “That can help you build.”

Rocky Point fought in 10 matches and won nine of them, dropping the 106-pound weight class.

After the loss, sophomore Logan Sciotto answered right back for Rocky Point earning a 5-2 decision over Brentwood’s Wenchard Pierre-Louis at 113 pounds. Sophomore Evan Mathias squeezed by Richard Diaz with a 5-3 decision at 120. Senior captain Ryan Callahan won his 138-pound match and classmate Donald Hammarth took his at 145.

Goldstein said he’s excited to be one of the first to represent Suffolk County in the state dual meet championship. Rocky Point will wrestle Jan. 27 at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse. Section XI wrestling chairman Matt DeVincenzo, athletic director at Comsewogue, said 12 teams will be competing in four pools of three teams each, with the winner of each pool heading to the semifinals. The winners of those matchups will face off in the final. The Eagles, in the Division I pool, are grouped with Spencerport (No. 3 seed) and Jamesville-DeWitt, competing on mat three.

“We are going to try our best,” Goldstein said. “We know that we can compete with the best kids in the state — that’s really what we’ve been doing all year long. We got these kids focused, in the right mindset.”

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Smithtown West's Jack Swanson maintains control of his challenger. Photo by Jim Ferchland

By Jim Ferchland

The Bulls have once again dominated League III this season.

Smithtown West’s wrestling team finished the season undefeated at 6-0 with a 57-18 win over visiting Riverhead Jan. 12.

Smithtown West’s Logan Hutter, on left, sizes up his challenger. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“I have a senior group that’s ready to go, but I seem to have balance ,” head coach Ken Leverich said of the cohesiveness of his unit. “I have ninth graders in the varsity lineup winning matches, tenth graders, juniors and seniors — we look to keep this ball rolling.”

It’s the first time in school history the Bulls have won back-to-back league titles in wrestling. Leverich, who has been at the helm for 13 years, was hesitant to respond with how he felt.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I just like to put numbers up on the banner.”

Smithtown West even had to forego having three starters compete because they were upstate at the Eastern States Classic tournament. Despite their absence, Leverich was content with the backup and depth of his team replacing Kyle Reilly, Matt Weitemeyer and Tim Nagoski.

Smithtown West Jack Desousa stands up on the mat after pinning his Riverhead opponent. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“When you have three starters away at another tournament, it was a little dicey without them,” Leverich said. “The expectations were a little uncertain versus Riverhead, but we were able to slide guys in with our depth and [they brought home] wins for us. It was big.”

Smithtown West junior 113-pounder Jack Desousa picked up a win and six points with a pin in 1 minute, 35 seconds over Riverhead’s Jason Daman.

“It’s amazing actually —two years in a row is great for our program,” the two-year varsity starter said of being part of another league championship-winning squad, also noting his closeness with Leverich, who he said has become a second father to him. “We have great coaches and I’ve been with them forever. I’ve had [Leverich] as a coach since second grade.”

Senior Jack Swanson finished his final match at Smithtown West with a win over Riverhead’s Chris Dubose in the 182-pound weight class. Leverich said the 10-3 decision over Riverhead’s Chris Debose was the highlight of the night.

“He stepped up and beat another county-ranked kid,” the head coach said of Swanson. “He’s got a ton of wins this season. He’s done a great job.”

Smithtown West’s Steven Zimmerman refuses to let his opponent escape. Photo by Jim Ferchland

At the 195-pound weight class, Smithtown West’s Steven Zimmerman pinned Romel Richards in 5:38 to give the Bulls a 37-3 advantage.

Leverich raved about freshman Nicholas Germano, who despite winning against Riverhead at 99 pounds as a result of a forfeit has only lost one match all season.

“He’s a little stud,” Leverich said of his 17-1 grappler. “Weight class 99 is where we should go furthest this year.”

Smithtown West junior James Campanelle earned a major decision over Jared Cawley (9-1) at 120 pounds, as did freshman Logan Hutter over Dominic Bossey (10-1) at 126.

Leverich said even with some of the boys’ close losses he was happy with how his Bulls performed.

“I wasn’t disappointed in any of my boys tonight,” he said. “They all wrestled well.”

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Patriots send some wrestlers upstate to compete, rest others in loss to Sachem East

Ward Melville's Chris Little battles for dominance. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Ward Melville’s wrestling team looked to cap off its undefeated regular season with another win Jan. 12, but with key competitors away at Eastern States Classic, it was a tall order for the Patriots to fill, which fell to Sachem East 51-27 on their home mat.

“We knew it was going to be a little tight,” said Ward Melville head coach Garrett Schnettler, noting his five starters away at the tournament. “Once we got [beyond] 138 pounds we knew it was going to be tight.”

Eastern States Classic tournament

Away at Sullivan County Community College in Loch Sheldrake, All-County senior Rafael Lievano notched his 100th career victory at 132 pounds. Junior Tom Fitzsimmons and senior Richie Munoz also competed.

Ward Melville senior 160-pounder Nabeel Ahmed struck first for his team, winning the opening match 10-6. The Patriots gathered additional points with a pair of Sachem East forfeits at 170 and 182 pounds, and senior Kevin Vera won his match 8-2 at 195 pounds to put his team out front 14-0.

From there, the Patriot lead slowly slipped away, with losses in the 220 and 285-pound weights classes before eighth-grader Christian Lievano started off the lighter weights with a pin at 2:39 over Sachem East’s John Tietjan at 99 pounds.

Sachem East got back in the win column at 106, 113 and 120 pounds to give the Flaming Arrows their first lead of the match, 26-24, and never looked back.

Ward Melville senior Ryan Mc Namara said the loss will have no effect on him or his teammates in preparation for the postseason, even if the win would have set a regular season record.

Ward Melville’s Kevin Vera tries to stay on top of his challenger to avoid letting up any points. Photo by Bill Landon

“Tonight’s loss isn’t going to phase us,” said Mc Namara, who was bumped from 170 to 185 so a junior varsity player could compete. Mc Namara won by forfeit. “We didn’t have as much experience, but they gave it their best. We’ll have everyone back in their spots in the lineup and we’ll give it our all [Wednesday].”

Ward Melville competes in the opening round of the newly created Suffolk County dual championship Jan. 17. Bracket information was not readily available for who the Patriots will compete against. Matches are currently scheduled to take place at 4 p.m.

“The guys at Eastern States, they’re doing pretty well,” said sophomore Dan Cassera, who was able to execute a pair of takedowns to pull away with a 9-6 win at 138 pounds. “We’re going to work hard [to get ready for Wednesday], put in a lot of practice, see what we did wrong and correct those things.”

Away at Sullivan County Community College in Loch Sheldrake, All-County senior Rafael Lievano notched his 100th career victory at 132 pounds. Junior Tom Fitzsimmons and senior Richie Munoz were also away.

“We’re already looking forward,” Schnettler said following the loss. “We take it one match at a time, and now we’re getting ready for the next meet. The guys are focused. We could’ve made tonight’s match closer, but we thought long term — gave some guys the rest who needed it — because round one of the dual meet championship is way more important than us going undefeated in the league.”

Ward Melville’s Christian Lievano attempts to keep his challenger on the mat. Photo by Bill Landon

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Landslide victories help Eagles to seventh straight league crown

Rocky Point's Corey Connolly takes down his Amityville opponent. Photo by Jim Ferchland

By Jim Ferchland

These Eagles are flying high.

Like the opportunistic foragers they represent, Rocky Point’s wrestlers saw how close they were to another undefeated league season, and grabbed it by easily outscoring Amityville and Westhampton Beach to finish the season 6-0.

Rocky Point’s Ryan Callahan claims a victory. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“Our team has been grinding throughout the year,” senior captain Ryan Callahan said. “We’ve had a lot of tough matches; we’ve had some tough teams we’ve battled, but every team will get their bumps and bruises.”

Amityville had to bow out of six matches — weight classes 99 to 132 — giving Rocky Point a 36-point lead right out of the gate on the way to a 74-9 victory Jan. 10. Sal Aprile pinned Amityville’s Nestor Rivera in the 182-pound weight class to give Rocky Point 67 consecutive points.

“It’s a rarity, but not so much with Amityville,” Rocky Point head coach Darren Goldstein said of the multiple forfeits.

Callahan (22-4 at 138 pounds) and Don Hammarth (16-1 at 145 pounds) won by technical falls, outscoring their opponents by 15 points for automatic wins.

Callahan said Goldstein has taught him everything he knows about wrestling.

“I’ve been around him since I was 5 years old,” Callahan said. “He taught me everything about the sport; everything about competing. He taught me great sportsmanship and to enjoy sports.”

Rob Pliska gave the Eagles four points with a major decision over Amityville’s Angel Zavala, 8-0, at 152 pounds, and Corey Connolly won 5-0 at 160 pounds.

Rocky Point’s Don Hammarth controls his Amityville challenger. Photo by Jim Ferchland

The Eagles only continued their winning ways at Westhampton Jan. 11 with another dominant win.

Mickey Gold, Justin Amendola, Anthony Sciotto and Darren Ketcham each pinned their challengers, which alone would have handed Rocky Point sole possession of the League VI title. Rocky Point won the dual meet 67-12.

Callahan and Connolly teched their opponents, and Hammarth pulled out an 11-3 major decision.

“We’ve had a share of the league title for the last seven years straight,” Goldstein said. “We are proud, but we set big goals in the beginning. We work year round.”

Rocky Point finishes the regular season 11-1 overall, with the sole loss being to League V’s Eastport-South Manor the first meet of the season. Goldstein is proud to see how his grapplers bounced back, giving it their all at each meet after. He’s looking forward to seeing what his Eagles can do in the Suffolk County brackets.

“We didn’t wrestle our best to Eastport-South Manor, but we’ve been rolling ever since,” Goldstein said. “When the county dual comes, you can’t run away.”

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