Although the Port Jefferson wrestling team once again fell short of its goal of a League VII title, plenty of Royals will still see action this weekend — and stepping onto the podium would mean a trip up to Albany at the end of the month for a chance at an individual state crown.
“We have a group of seniors that have been working hard all season,” head coach Mike Maletta said. “It’s still yet to be seen where they’ll end this season, and it all comes down to the next two weeks.”
The Royals squad ended the year at 5-2 in conference play, suffering a loss to undefeated Mattituck/Greenport/Southold on Jan. 6 and a close 37-36 loss to Bayport-Blue Point in the final league dual meet of the regular season on Jan. 22. The team also beat Hampton Bays, 64-15, in a nonleague meet that didn’t count toward that record.
“We didn’t go 8-0 because we’re missing some of our heavier guys,” Maletta said about the team’s run.
But the team did have success in multiple tournaments.
On Jan. 9, the team took first place by outscoring 14 opponents at the David Sorenson Memorial Invitational held at Long Island Lutheran in Brookville. At the same tournament, teammates Vin Miceli, Joe Evangelista and Matteo DeVincenzo took first-place wins in their individual weight classes.
A week afterward, DeVincenzo took his second first-place crown at the Eastern States Classic, held at Sullivan County Community College in Loch Sheldrake. To earn his latest title, DeVincenzo defeated three other state champions from a field of 60 wrestlers. Simultaneously, he was voted Champion of Champions by his peers.
The Royals also won the LuHi Tournament, a separate tournament at Long Island Lutheran High School, in mid-January.
“We don’t fill out all of our weight classes, so for us to win a tournament means that our guys who were in the tournament wrestled real solid,” Maletta said. “We’ve had steady wrestling all year from guys like sophomore returning county champion Vin Miceli [and] sophomore returning All-County wrestler Joe Evangelista, and seniors Sterling Nenninger, Dallas Brett and Alex Frohnen have done a great job winning and placing in tournaments.”
Jack Collins also placed in two tournaments and freshman 99-pounder Ricky D’Elia won a tournament, while 106-pounder Robby Williams placed in four this season.
“We’re pretty solid from 99 up to 152 pounds,” Maletta said. “The biggest happy surprise has been Rick D’Elia at 99 pounds, how he has over 20 wins as a ninth-grader. He’s gotten valuable experience, he’s undefeated in the league, so the goal is for him to be heading upstate and getting some even more valuable experience in Albany.”
DeVincenzo’s winning season continued when the graduating senior, who will be attending Princeton University in the fall, set a school record of 141 career wins during the Armstrong Cup, held in Port Jefferson on Jan. 30.
DeVincenzo is now a four-time Armstrong Cup champion, which according to Maletta has never been done before by any wrestler. He surpassed brother Tristin DeVincenzo’s win record of 137 wins in his first match there. He’s undefeated right now with a 29-0 record, and plans to remain undefeated at the end of the month, stepping atop the podium at the state championship.
Matteo DeVincenzo may have a unique trip upstate. According to Maletta, his senior star, who is a three-time county champion, state champion and All-State wrestler, may see a familiar face in his weight class — a wrestler who defeated him in the 99-pound final in his freshman year.
“It would be fitting if they meet in the finals this year, and I have all the confidence that Matteo can top him,” Maletta said. “Coach Ian Schneider and Coach Nick Miceli and myself are just enjoying the ride right now. Very few coaches get to coach an athlete like Matteo, so we’re aware of it, and we’re going to enjoy the next month.”
For now, Port Jefferson is sending numerous athletes to the Section XI Division II championship on Feb. 13 at Center Moriches High School.
Other wrestlers competing will be Brendan Rogers, James Laffey, Shane DeVincenzo, Joe Longo, Dylan Berger, Brian Webb, Matt Murphy, Joe Collins, Pedro Nobrega, Chris Lepore, Ryan Walsh and Harry Cona.
“We might not be able to outpace some of the other teams that can fill up the brackets with their athletes, but we’re looking to come away with a group of champions that’s going to make Port Jeff proud,” Maletta said.
Two years ago, Port Jefferson sent a record five wrestlers to the state tournament. Last year, the team dropped back a little, sending three, but the head coach is looking to send another handful of guys back to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championship on Feb. 26 and 27.
“We’re excited about moving forward,” Maletta said. “We countdown in practice because we have to enjoy the time together, because we don’t have much longer. They’ll always be my boys, my athletes, my kids. I’m looking forward to enjoying the next week and hopefully extending it further into the end of February. It’s been a good journey.”