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Wrestling

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Port Jeff Royals set the bar high this wrestling season

Vin Miceli controls his opponent during the Huntington Holiday Tournament Dec. 2. Photo by Bill Landon
Matt Murphy breaks free from his challenger during the Huntington Holiday Tournament Dec. 2. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

For Port Jefferson senior Vin Miceli, grabbing gold was a nice way to kick off the individual season. The 132-pounder placed first at the 47th annual Huntington Holiday Tournament Dec. 2, and was also voted Most Outstanding Wrestler by all of the coaches in attendance.

Miceli, who has committed to wrestle for Division I Bloomsburg University next year, said there’s no secret to competing at the level he does. He said the sacrifices he makes pay off on the mat.

“It takes a lot of hard work — there’s no stopping and there’s no offseason for me — I’m always in the wrestling room,” said Miceli, who will start the season competing in the 126-pound weight class, hoping to transition to 120 by midseason. “I have my brother and good friends to train with, so it’s nonstop. I have about 90 matches in the offseason.”

Despite its size, Port Jefferson has a rich tradition of cultivating wrestling talent year in and year out, and according to first-year assistant coach Jesse Meaney, the sport is unique in several ways.

“Wrestling isn’t like other sports where you need 100 kids coming out to have a successful team — the work that they put in is the success they will come away with,” Meaney said. “And repetition is the key. You have to drill things 1,000 times in order for it to become muscle memory, so at the end of the week, the kids have drilled things to where they’re technically perfect.”

Port Jefferson faced off against the best of Huntington, Kings Park, Farmingdale, Patchogue-Medford, Comsewogue and Grand Street Campus (Brooklyn).

Brendan Rogers attempts to turn his opponent onto his back during the Huntington Holiday Tournament Dec. 2. Photo by Bill Landon

Junior Rick D’Elia placed second at 113 pounds, as did senior Joe Evangelista at 152 pounds.

Meaney reiterated that being a large school with a larger talent pool isn’t the same type of advantage it is in other sports.

“Wrestling isn’t a sport that discriminates, if you have kids that are willing to put in the work and that are willing to listen to the coaches, you can have a successful program,” he said.

Junior Brendan Rogers placed third at 120 pounds, as did classmate Ryan Robertson and sophomore Jack Neiderberger at 138 and 195 pounds. Placing fourth were seniors Joe Longo and Chris Lepore and junior Harry Cona in 152, 182 and 220 pounds, respectively.

When asked what his goals were for his senior season, Miceli didn’t hesitate.

“I’m a senior on a mission — my goal is to win states,” Miceli said. “That’s been my goal since I’ve joined the team.”

The Royals compete in two more invitationals — Harborfields’ Steven J. Mally Memorial and their own Bob Armstrong Cup — before opening the league season on the road against Mattituck Dec. 21.

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Mount Sinai wrestlers Matt Campo, Mike Sabella, Robert Christ, Joe O’Brien and Jason Shlonsky with their Suffolk County championship brackets. Photo from Karen Campo

Robert Christ’s story is one head coach Matt Armstrong will be telling for a long time.

In the senior’s first two seasons on Mount Sinai’s wrestling team, the 285-pound grappler didn’t win a single match. Now, he’s a county champion.

Christ was one of five Mustangs to grab gold last weekend at the Suffolk County Division II championship at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood.

Christ looked to his coaches for guidance, knowing they’d been to the county and state tournaments, but according to Armstrong, his wrestler deserves all of the credit.

Campo maintains control over an opponent during a previous match. Photo by Bill Landon

“We pointed to him all season as an example of what wrestling and sports are all about — through hard work you can achieve anything,” Armstrong said. “The fact that he’s doing as well as he is — it’s a great story. It shows if you don’t like where you are, just work harder and you can achieve great things. He’s in a 285-pound weight class when he weighs 220 pounds, so he’s given up a lot, but nobody works harder than him.”

Christ won his qualifying match 1-0, edged out his semifinal competitor 1-0 and claimed a 3-0 decision over his final opponent of the tournament.

Although he’d faced his semifinal competitor before, he came out tougher than Christ expected, but the finals match was what had him on edge.

“The first match was at 9 a.m. and I had to wait until 8 p.m. that night for my finals match, thinking about it the entire time,” he said. “I remember being out there wrestling — I couldn’t believe I was on that mat. I was nervous, I didn’t want to mess up, but I tried not to let the nerves get to me. To pull away with the win was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had in sports. You put in so much time and effort into one thing and after so many months and years to finally have it pay off was awesome.”

Christ was new to the county stage, and so was teammate Mike Sabella.

A sophomore, the 182-pounder was one of the youngest on the team to take the trip upstate. Freshman Matt Campo also finished atop the podium.

“I’ve learned how to overcome my obstacles and win big matches, and that’s due in part to our great seniors who are really good role models for the underclassmen.”

—Matt Campo

Sabella was overwhelmed by the enormous crowd he was going to compete in front of, but made his way through his qualifier round and semifinal matchup with pins in the first and second period.

“Getting those pins reassured me that I was in the tournament for a reason,” he said. “Knowing I was facing some of the best kids in the county was a confidence booster.”

Campo also came away with three pins in the tournament. For the 113-pounder, who has been on the team since seventh grade, making weight was the hardest part of the two-day tournament.

“Our team is really tough,” said Campo, who was a league champion last year. “I wrestle guys who are usually stronger than me, so I have to out-technique them. I’ve learned how to overcome my obstacles and win big matches, and that’s due in part to our great seniors who are really good role models for the underclassmen.”

Sabella can relate to that. He worked primarily with one of the team’s leaders, Jason Shlonsky, who was the Champion of Champions at the tournament and had the most pins in the least amount of time.

“I usually wrestle defensively, and he’s a goon on offense, so whenever Jay would try to shoot, I would try to find a way to defend it,” Sabella said. “Knowing he was a very good wrestler — wrestling him for the last couple of months got me really ready for counties. I went in with the mindset that I should be winning.”

He credits the work he put in with Shlonsky as the reason he won his finals match — a 3-2 decision.

“I’d wrestled the kid before and he knew what I was doing, so it was hard to get the shots I wanted,” he said. “I had to switch to some different moves, which is where wrestling with Jay all year helped me.”

Shlonsky said he’s learned just as much from Sabella as his teammate did from him.

Shlonsky has his arm raised following his win. Photo from Karen Campo

“He and I got really close throughout the season and we both helped each other out,” he said. “We have different styles, so learning how to work with those different styles was important for both of us.”

The Champion of Champions was an ideal Mustang for Sabella to pair with. Although he took a year off from wrestling his junior year, the 170-pounder went 28-0 in his final season, with 25 wins coming from pins. Although he said he tries not to focus on winning or losing, he said that did play a factor in his first qualifying match, which earned him his 100th career win.

“I tried to keep a level head and focus on what I do best, rather than my opponent,” he said. “I go in telling myself that I need to worry about my own offense, and I’m constantly looking to score points. When I do that, things turn out in my favor.”

Joe O’Brien, at 132 pounds, also came away a county champion. In the finals, he wrestled Port Jefferson’s Vin Miceli, a year-round, accomplished wrestler.

“He really dominated,” Armstrong said of O’Brien. “Joe is really peaking at the right time. He looked very good and I’m excited to see what he can do at states this weekend.”

The Mustangs will be competing at the Times Union Center in Albany Feb. 24 and 25.

It’s already been a season to remember for Mount Sinai, but the boys are hoping to show New York what Suffolk County is made of.

“It’s a fairytale ending,” Shlonsky said of his season so far. “Coming back not being on the mat much was an unbelievable feeling. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

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Five Panthers take home league titles, win school's first team title

Eric Schreck controls his opponent. Photo by Ray Nelson

Suffolk County rivals may have written off Miller Place wrestling after the Panthers graduated several key competitors last season, but the boys came back to make a statement: they’re only getting better.

After going 21-2 this season, the team won the League VI dual meet title for the second straight season, with a 7-0 record, and took it a step further this season — winning the League VI team championship for the first time in school history.

“We did a lot of work in the offseason,” Miller Place head coach Matt Kaszubski said. “We went a full year, 12 months, 52 weeks of wrestling. I don’t think a lot of people expected us to be as good as we are, but we knew we were. We knew we were going to be competitive this year, but the kids exceeded our expectations.”

Joe Bartolotto following a win. Photo by Ray Nelson

The Panthers, who also served as the host team, were in third place heading into the quarterfinals of the League VI championship, but in the semifinals, the grapplers caught fire. Ten Panthers went through to the finals, with eight getting bonus points and five claiming the top spot. Miller Place, at 241. 5 points, pulled ahead of Islip (230.5) and Elwood-John Glenn (205).

“Our biggest thing was wrestling for each other,” the head coach said. “We preach hard work and the kids really bought in, they committed on the mat, they committed in the weight room, running on their own, we went to camps, and it all came together this season.”

Redemption was on the minds of James Alamia and Joe Bartolotto III, who each placed second in last season’s championship.

“I definitely didn’t want to go out second,” Bartolotto said. “I wanted to end on a good note and get the title my senior year.”

“Good” may be an understatement for the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler, who pinned his quarterfinal and semifinal opponents.

“They were pretty quick,” he said. “I just wanted to get those out of the way and focus on the big one — the finals.”

The 160-pounder said he knew it was going to be a good matchup because he’d wrestled his challenger in the dual meet season. He said he prepared for the matchup all week, and it paid off. He won by a 5-1 decision.

Kaszubski said he always knows he can count on his senior standout and team leader in pins.

“He’s one of the best athletes we’ve ever had — he’s a total package kind of kid,” he said of his player, who’s headed to Cornell University to play lacrosse. “His commitment to wrestling has been second to none.”

At 120 pounds, Alamia won all three of his matches by pins. He had a different experience last season. He said he was disappointed in his finals loss after he’d outscored his opponent earlier that season.

“Ever since last year ended we said, ‘starting now, next season starts,’ and we just never stopped working.”

—James Alamia

“The motivation and the will to win helped me,” he said of his finals match, where he was up by 12 points before getting the pin. “Not that the pins were easy, but most of the kids I’d wrestled before and I did a lot better this time around. Ever since last year ended we said, ‘starting now, next season starts,’ and we just never stopped working.”

At 138 pounds, Eric Schreck also had a pin, taking down his first opponent in 1 minute, 40 seconds before a 15-0 technical fall and 11-3 major decision in the finals.

“I had a good day,” he said. “There were tough kids, but I do whatever it takes to win.

I take ‘em down quick in the first and stay on top, try to turn as much as I can.”

The head coach said the handful of disappointments last season fueled the fire for his grapplers to come back strong.

“It was a blessing in disguise having them fall a little short last year,” he said. “They were hungrier than ever, and we have a lot of prolific pinners. We preach putting guys on their back and getting pins and getting bonus points. That’s something that we work on ever day.”

Kyle Klein Jr. also took home a title at 99 pounds, as did James Rado at 126 pounds.

Bartolotto and his teammates agreed that although placing first was the icing on the cake, winning the team title was what mattered most.

“Winning the Most Outstanding Wrestler title felt good as recognition for working hard, but winning the team championship felt better because this was the last team thing we can do this season,” he said. “We’ve been doing things that people didn’t think we’d be able to do.”

Rafael Lievano went 3-1 in the tournament at Comsewogue, losing to Northport in the finals. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Ward Melville’s wrestling team had two Patriots, seniors Kenny Cracchiola and Sean Fitzsimmons, pull away undefeated during a multi-team dual meet Jan. 14 at Comsewogue High School. Ward Melville faced off against St. John the Baptist, Riverhead, Bay Shore and Northport.

“This is my fourth year on varsity and honestly this is the best overall team we’ve had,” Cracchiola said. “I think with this year’s team we can knock off [some] of the top teams in the county.”

A four-year varsity starter, Cracchiola won his first three matches against Bay Shore, St. John the Baptist and Riverhead, by technical falls — defeating each opponent by scoring 15 more points than his challenger had on him.

Nick Little faces off against his opponent. Photo by Bill Landon

He faced a Northport opponent in the 120-pound finals, and earned his 111th career win, going 4-0.

At 126 pounds, Fitzsimons defeated Bay Shore’s Carlos Espinal, an All-League player who Ward Melville head coach Garrett Schnettler said is a county-ranked wrestler. Fitzsimons pinned him in the first period.

“I’m 3-0 right now,” Fitzsimons said following the win. “I feel that we all have something to prove this year — I think some of the other teams are brushing us off and we’ll be looking to knock off a few big names this season.”

Fitzsimons defeated both his Riverhead and St. John the Baptist opponents by technical falls, and also went 4-0.

Junior Rafael Lievano, a returning All-League and All-County standout from last season, was also undefeated heading into the final match of the afternoon.

Preparing for the tournament, the 132-pounder said he worked hard on eating right and going to bed early, knowing he was going to be facing some tough opponents. After winning his first three matches by technical falls, his final match proved to be his biggest challenge.

Tyler Lynde went 3-0 in the tournament. Photo by Bill Landon

He and his opponent know each other well.

“I’m going to face a tough kid from Northport — Chris Esposito,” Lievano said. “It’ll be a tough match. We’re good friends.”

Lievano said he beat Esposito 4-3 last year, and the match proved to be another tough one, with the Ward Melville grappler coming out on the losing end this time around.

Despite battling injuries this season, losing key wrestlers and having to forfeit matches in some weight classes, according to Schnettler, his team ended up going 2-2 in the tournament, topping St. John the Baptist and Riverhead.

Ward Melville finished 3-2 in League I this season, and travels to Port Jefferson High School Jan. 21 for the final tournament of the season, the Bob Armstrong Tournament, which will begin at 8 a.m.

The Patriots will continue to rely on key grapplers to get the job done.

“We’ve had some big matches by Kenny Cracchiola, Rafael Lievano and Sean Fitzsimons,” Schnettler said. “Our three core guys that we expect big things from once again come in and get the wins that we need.”

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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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Joe Evangelista controls an opponent last season. File photo

Port Jefferson wrestlers are taking this year’s theme to heart — the Royals are looking to become legends.

This season the team is paying homage to the greats who battled for the purple and white before them. To date, the Royals have 189 All-County wrestlers, 37 Suffolk County champions, 13 All-State wrestlers and four state champions. John Proios won the school’s first state title in 1967, and Bill Proios took it home again in 1969. Jamie St. John won in 1988 and 1989, and Matteo DeVincenzo claimed gold in 2014 and 2016.

“The coaching staff felt it was appropriate to acknowledge the ‘Legends of the Nation’ due to the amazing past, but to also acknowledge that just last year Port Jeff graduated its most accomplished wrestler in school history,” Port Jefferson head coach Mike Maletta said. “Matteo was a true legend of PJ Nation.”

DeVincenzo was a four-time All-State wrestler, three-time state finalist, three-time All-American, two-time state champion and holds the school record for wins with 148. He currently wrestles for Princeton University, and joins some of his old teammates, including his brother Tristin, on the collegiate mats. The older DeVincenzo wrestled at The University of Pennsylvania, and ex-teammate Paul Cavanagh is wrestling at the United States Merchant Marine Academy. All three wrestlers represented Port Jefferson at the state tournament in Albany.

Vin Miceli has his arm raised following a win in 2015. File photo

This season, Port Jefferson returns three county champions and three other All-County athletes.

Rick D’Elia, Vin Miceli and Joe Evangelista have all wrestled upstate and are looking to return this February. Robert Williams, Joe Longo and Brendan Rogers are returning All-County wrestlers that will help the Royals battle for a league and county title, and are looking to make the leap to Albany this season.

“If you look at the Royals roster, a couple of things may stick out,” Maletta said. “For one, the Royals have zero seniors on the squad this year, a point that may doom a team, but excites the coaching staff, not only for this year, but for the future. Another thing that one may notice is the arrival of some brothers to the team.”

D’Elia’s younger brother Anthony is now at 99 pounds, while his older brother moves to 113. Tyler Rogers joins his brother Brendan, and Will Williams joins his brother Rob.

“It does not end there, because next year Anthony Evangelista may be joining his brother Joe, along with Ryan Robertson’s younger brother,” Maletta said. “PJ Nation will be a true family affair.”

Maletta is excited about Rogers’ potential.

“He’s been a pleasant surprise at his young age,” the coach said of the eighth-grader. “He’s a really aggressive wrestler, and he helps our team balance and get the right matchups between 113 and 130 pounds.”

In the first two tournaments this season, the 26-person Port Jefferson team finished with four champions — more than any other team. Kings Park and Patchogue-Medford were close behind with three, Huntington and Grand Street Brooklyn had two and Harborfields had one.

Brendan Rogers became champion at 99 pounds with three pins, Rick D’Elia brought the gold home at 106 with three pins, Miceli had three technical falls at 126 pounds for the top spot and Joe Evangelista had five pins at 145. Jon Moshe placed third in the 138-pound weight class; Robbie Williams finished fourth at 113; Matt Murphy placed fourth at 152; Shane DeVincenzo, Tristin and Matteo’s younger brother, placed fifth at 132; and Joe Longo placed fifth at 145 pounds.

Rick D’Elia sizes up an opponent. File photo

Rogers and 195-pounder Harry Cona also placed first at the Varsity B tournament. D’Elia, 160-pounder Matt Spyro and 220-pounder Jack Niederberger placed second, and Lucas Rohman came in fourth at 145 pounds.

Last week at the Steven Mally tournament in Harborfields, the Royals represented well, placing 11 wrestlers in the tournament, with seven finalists and three champions.

Rogers, D’Elia and Miceli placed first, while Williams, DeVincenzo, Evagelista, Longo, Murphy, Cona, Niederberger and Anthony D’Elia all took a spot on the podium.

The Royals kicked off the dual-meet season by taking on Babylon Dec. 14, where the team topped its opponent 55-25, before traveling to Bellport Dec. 17 for a holiday tournament.

The team faced off against Center Moriches Dec. 21. Maletta said the matchup is basically for the league title. The Royals narrowly fell, 44-30.

“They have a pretty tough 99-pounder,” he said. “But if everyone’s at the right weight, we’re real solid up until 152 pounds. We have some new guys at 160 and 170, and we have two new wrestlers at 220 and 285, so we can stretch to have a full lineup, which is really going to pay off in dual meets because we can get some bonus points up in those higher weight classes, and we haven’t been able to do that in two or three years.”

Maletta said the team is always wrestling, and his core group of guys — Brendan Rogers, Rick D’Elia, Miceli and Joe Evangelista — have the best chances to go upstate at the end of the year — but it won’t be easy.

“The county championship will be really tough,” he said, adding that teams like Center Moriches, Bayport-Blue Point and Mount Sinai will present some of the biggest challengers. “They’re going to have to step up. It’s not going to be an easy road to get upstate, but if they do climb the mountain to the county tournament, they’re going to be better prepared to be on the podium upstate.”

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Kenny Cracchiola practices with Richie Munoz. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

With a mix of first-year varsity wrestlers and All-County and league champions at its core, returning senior Kenny Cracchiola said his confidence in his Ward Melville wrestling team has never been higher.

“This is my fourth year on varsity and honestly this is the best overall team we’ve had and I think with this year’s team we can knock off [some] of the top teams in the county,” said the four-year starting who is closing in on 100 varsity wins, despite the team losing two county champions to graduation last year. “We lost to Brentwood the last couple of years, but If we could take down Brentwood that would send a message.”

Tom Fitzsimons drops an opponent during practice. Photo by Bill Landon
Tom Fitzsimons drops an opponent during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

Cracchiola will be joined by classmate Sean Fitzsimons, who is in his second year at the varsity level and is a returning league finalist and an all county competitor.

Fitzsimons said the feel and the mentality in the practice room has changed this year.

“I feel that we all have something to prove this year — I think some of the other teams are brushing us off and we’ll be looking to knock off a few big names this year,” Fitzsimons said.

The Patriots finished last season 3-3 and are looking make a splash in League I, under first-year head coach Garrett Schnettler.

“There are three teams that are ranked in the county who are ahead of us in our league — Brentwood, Sachem East and Patchogue-Medford — so those are three teams we’d like to go after,” Schnettler said. “We were beaten by those three last year pretty convincingly, but this year we have a really deep team at every weight and we have someone that’s reliable in each class.”

Schnettler said he expects big things from junior Nabeel Ahmed, who got a late start to the season due to the success of the football team that went to the county championship game. Ahmed, a wide receiver and free safety, was injured last season and didn’t see action on the mat, but according to Schnettler, that unknowingness of other teams will work to the Patriots’ advantage.

 Rafael Lievano squares off against Sean Fitzsimons. Photo by Bill Landon
Rafael Lievano squares off against Sean Fitzsimons. Photo by Bill Landon

Rafael Lievano, a junior in his second year on varsity, is a returning All-League and All-County standout who Schnettler expects to have a breakout season.

“In the off season I wrestled five to six times a week to stay sharp, because this is a big year for me and I want to make some noise this year,” Lievano said. “Physically, I’ll keep my weight down, and mentally, I’ll keep doing what I’ve been doing and stay confident. I want to make a run this year.”

Schnettler said he couldn’t be more pleased with the progress he’s seen and the commitment from every member of the team.

The Patriots open the season on the road at the Sprig Invitational in East Hampton Dec. 10, which begins at 7:30 a.m.

“We’ll be here at 5 a.m.,” the head coach said, “and the guys will check their weights, anybody over will be in here running and we’ll roll out at 6 a.m.”

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Ward Melville’s Christian Araneo captured his second straight New York State championship title on Feb. 27 in Albany. Photo from Three Village Central School District
Ward Melville’s Christian Araneo captured his second straight New York State championship title on Feb. 27 in Albany. Photo from Three Village Central School District
Ward Melville’s Christian Araneo captured his second straight New York State championship title on Feb. 27 in Albany. Photo from Three Village Central School District

Ward Melville wrestler Christian Araneo captured his second straight win at the New York State wrestling championship on Feb. 27 in Albany.

Competing in the 195-pound weight class, the 6-foot-4-inch Araneo proved to be a tough competitor throughout the championship.

With his technical fall when he reached 16-0 at the 4:57 mark of his matchup against Arlington’s Tanner Nielsen, it was on to the quarterfinals.

Araneo’s takedown of Baldwinsville’s Alex Bowen just 15 seconds into their bout put him ahead 2-0, and the tone was set for him to win the match with a 7-1 decision.

He went on to edge Mike DiNardo of Mahopac, 3-1, to win the title and improve to a perfect 42-0 on the season.

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Port Jefferson's Matteo DeVincenzo, left, grapples with his Locust Valley opponent Hunter Dusold in the New York State finals matchup. DeVincenzo edged out Dusold, 2-1, for his second state championship crown. Photo by Luci DeVincenzo

Matteo DeVincenzo felt relieved.

As the clock wound down and the whistle blew, the 126-pound Port Jefferson powerhouse put another state championship title in the record books with a 2-1 victory over Locust Valley’s Hunter Dusold.

Matteo DeVincenzo hugs head coach Mike Maletta after earning his second New York State championship crown. Photo by Luci DeVincenzo
Matteo DeVincenzo hugs head coach Mike Maletta after earning his second New York State championship crown. Photo by Luci DeVincenzo

“I expected to win, so it wasn’t surprising, but it felt good,” DeVincenzo said. “Overall, I wrestled real solid and dominated up until the finals.”

That focus and determination from day one led the Royal to an undefeated season. DeVincenzo was 32-0 heading into the state championship bracket. The first upstate challenger he faced he topped 12-2; the second match, a Section X grappler, he ruled over 9-1; the third, a Section III opponent he outscored 8-4. The finals win against Dusold capped it all off for a perfect 36-0 season.

“This whole year has been about domination and preparation, so I’d say no matter where I was in the bracket I would’ve had the same outlook,” he said.

But the senior and his coaches Mike Maletta, Ian Schneider and Nick Miceli were happy to see him avenge his state semifinal loss from last season, to once again stand atop the New York podium.

“This was really his last time wrestling in New York so we knew of the significance of it and it being special,” head coach Maletta said. “Matteo is one of the best of the best. He was unstoppable.”

Schneider, the team’s assistant coach, said being just 23 years old and having the opportunity to coach in the state championship was a phenomenal feeling.

Port Jefferson's Matteo DeVincenzo, right, sizes up his competitor Hunter Dusold of Locust Valley. Photo by Luci DeVincenzo
Port Jefferson’s Matteo DeVincenzo, right, sizes up his competitor Hunter Dusold of Locust Valley. Photo by Luci DeVincenzo

“It was absolutely incredible to watch him do what he does best on the wrestling mat,” he said. “It was exciting, it was nerve-racking, it was all the emotions that ended joyously with him coming out on top. I may not ever coach a kid of his caliber in any sport again. I hope to have that, but he’s one of a kind and he’s something else as a person, as an individual and as a wrestler. He’s one of those rare gems that are out there. It was an absolute honor to coach him.”

Besides the four-time Suffolk County and two-time Eastern States champion, the Royals also sent two other wrestlers to Albany.

Sophomore 120-pounder Joe Evangelista and freshman 99-pounder Ricky D’Elia garnered some extra experience battling the bracket. Evangelista, a three-time All-County wrestler who became a county champion this year and finished with a 22-10 record, had to battle two tough All-State kids. D’Elia, who ended the season 25-7, made a couple of mistakes in a 5-3 first-round loss that sent him to the wrestlebacks.

“For their first time, it was cool for them to see the process for themselves and for Matteo,” Maletta said.

Matteo DeVincenzo has his arm raised by the referee after winning his New York State championship finals matchup. Photo by Luci DeVincenzo
Matteo DeVincenzo has his arm raised by the referee after winning his New York State championship finals matchup. Photo by Luci DeVincenzo

Although DeVincenzo will take one final trip with his coach, and D’Elia, to Virginia for nationals, but then the senior star is taking his talents to the mats of Princeton University. In college-level wrestling he will join his older brother, Tristin, who wrestles at the University of Pennsylvania, and another former Royal, Paul Cavanagh, who competes for the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.

The Royals had 11 All-County wrestlers this season. In addition to the three who traveled upstate, Brendan Rodgers, Robbie Williams, Vin Miceli, Joe Longo, Alex Frohnen, Dallas Brett, Jack Collins and Ryan Walsh all earned the accolade.

“I’m proud of what we’re doing here at Port Jeff and people notice us — from the biggest school in Suffolk County to the smaller schools that we wrestle with,” Maletta said. “They know if they’re competing against a kid with a Port Jeff singlet, they’re going to be prepared.”

Seven of those 11 will be returning to the roster next season. And with a young squad that will not soon graduate, the Royals expect only to gain players over the next two seasons.

“We’re moving in the right direction,” Schneider said. “Our middle school program has a bunch of kids where we’ve lacked in the upper weight classes, so when we can fill out the lineup we’ll be that much harder to beat.”

Maletta has enjoyed his time with his grand grappler, and hopes for even bigger and better things in the future.

“I’m 45 years old and there’s been great days in my life — getting married and having kids — but putting on my suit and heading down to see Matteo be crowned a state champion was pretty special, and I’m thankful that Matteo was brought into our lives and into our wrestling room at Port Jeff,” he said. “We put a lot of effort into this and I’m aware that many coaches don’t get to coach a Matteo. I’ve been coaching for 20 years and this is a kid that will be linked with me forever.”

Matteo DeVincenzo stands atop the 126-pound competitors. Photo by Luci DeVincenzo
Matteo DeVincenzo stands atop the 126-pound competitors. Photo by Luci DeVincenzo

John Arceri, left, fights off Long Beach’s Jacori Teemer in the state wrestling tournament finals. Photo from The Mat Slap

He gave it everything he had, but in the end, John Arceri fell just a little bit short.

The Huntington High School senior tasted defeat for the first time in two years when he dropped a 6-3 decision to Long Beach sophomore Jacori Teemer in the state wrestling tournament finals at the Times Union Arena in Albany on Saturday night.

Arceri won a pair of matches at 126 lbs. on Friday and captured a thrilling double overtime verdict in the semifinals on Saturday to advance to the championship bout. The standout athlete brought a 44-0 record into the finals against Teemer, who has now won three consecutive state titles.

“Teemer wrestled a perfect match against Johnny,” said Travis Smith, Huntington’s head coach. The Long Beach star notched a pair of takedowns and a reversal to build an insurmountable lead on Arceri, who normally surrenders few, if any, points.

“All of us are really proud of Johnny,” Smith said. “He’s accomplished some things that no other Huntington wrestler has ever done. He’s been a great kid to have in the practice room and an incredible competitor. No coach could ask for a better person to work with.”

Arceri has enjoyed a Blue Devils career of firsts. He’s taken first place in more than two dozen varsity tournaments, and he’s also realized achievements unique to Huntington’s long tradition of mat excellence.

He’s the first Huntington freshman to ever win a Suffolk wrestling title. Arceri is also the first Blue Devils grappler to win four Section XI titles. He is the program’s winningest wrestler with 195 career varsity victories.

“I really think the body of his work speaks for itself,” Smith said. “He’s never made excuses and he’s always been ready to go when it was his turn. He’s given us six fantastic seasons on the varsity team.”

Arceri topped Vestal junior Derek Osman in the opening round, 5-3 and then edged Niagara Wheatfield senior Vince Falvo in the quarterfinals, 6-1. The semi-final round bout against Monsignor Farrell senior Matt Seitz ended tied 1-1 after six minutes of wrestling, forcing overtime. Neither wrestler could break the deadlock in the extra session, so the duo went to the ultimate tiebreaker, which saw Arceri take top position and ride out his foe for the full 30-second period to claim victory.

“That match is going to go down as one of the most exciting we have ever had,” Smith said. “Johnny really hung tough. Not everyone can handle that kind of pressure, but he can, and he did.”

All eyes were on Arceri and Teemer (49-0) as the pair took the mat for the finals. The first period ended scoreless. Teemer scored the first points with a second period reversal, and Arceri escaped to make it 2-1, but Teemer knocked him down to extend his lead to 4-1. Arceri chose bottom position in the third period and escaped to cut his deficit to 4-2. Teemer proceeded to get another takedown to go ahead, 6-2 with 40 seconds remaining. Another Arceri escape made the final score 6-3.

“Teemer is a great wrestler,” Smith said. “We are very happy with Johnny’s effort. He gave us everything he had.

Arceri wasn’t at 100 percent during the tournament. He banged up his left knee during the Suffolk finals, but pressed onward during his four state tournament matches.

Arceri has signed an NCAA Division I letter of intent to wrestle at the University of Buffalo.

“We are really going to miss him,” Smith said. “He’s been such a big part of this program for so long.”

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