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Eric Schreck

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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.”

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Matt McNulty and the crowd celebrates Miller Place clinching the league title. Photo from Matt Kaszusbki

It was senior night on Friday, Jan. 22, and the Miller Place wrestling team pounced on Islip to win 34-31.

With the victory came something even sweeter: the Panther’s first piece of a League VI title in 36 years.

“We graduated a quality group of seniors last year, and I think people expected us to take a hit as far as our dual-meet team,” Miller Place head coach Matt Kaszubski said. “In the beginning of the season, we took a couple of losses that we shouldn’t have, and then after Christmas we really started rolling and coming together, and the group bought into what we were doing. The league title was a result of a lot of hard work over many years, and it was awesome to achieve that with this group.”

The Panthers finished last season 13-4 overall, and were 12-4-1 heading into the senior night dual meet, which was the team’s final match of the regular season.

At 106 pounds, senior David Selg found himself down in a match against a good opponent, but pinned him at the 4:36 mark.

“He’s very strong and his pin was huge for us,” Kaszubski said of Selg. “We also had Eddie Marbot, who is probably one of the scrappiest kids we have on the team, have a nice win for us.”

Eddie Marbot pins his opponent during senior night. Photo from Matt Kaszusbki
Eddie Marbot pins his opponent during senior night. Photo from Matt Kaszusbki

Marbot, a senior who weighed in at 138 pounds, won with a 5-2 decision over his opponent. Needing to win one more match to earn the win and a share of the league title with Elwood-John Glenn and Mount Sinai, sophomore Anthony McNaughton pinned his opponent in 1:25 at 220 pounds to clinch the meet.

“Everyone was celebrating,” Kaszubski said. “The motto of the night was wrestle for each other — wrestle for somebody else other than yourself. The kids really stepped up and it was a cool experience.”

For Marbot, it was a once-in-a-lifetime event.

“It was an almost unbelievable experience to be a part of, and something that none of us will ever forget — especially me being a senior,” he said. “To win the league title on senior night was icing on the cake.”

Selg said the team environment became that of a family from the start of the preseason to the present.

“Everyone did what they needed to do,” he said. “When everybody left last year, nobody expected anything, just like coach said, and this year we came back and we were all a family, we stuck together and we won the league title. I’m really proud of my team.”

Marbot added that the camaraderie couldn’t be matched.

“Everyone dedicated their time to improving — going to open mats, going to camps — everyone really came together to build the team,” he said. “And coach Kaszubski, he’s the best coach and teacher that you could ask for.”

The Panthers made it to the postseason as the No. 12 seed, but fell to No. 5 Lindenhurst, 57-9, in the opening round Jan. 27. No. 1-seeded Rocky Point made it all the way through the bracket to claim the Section XI title.

Eric Schreck controls his opponent during senior night. Photo from Matt Kaszusbki
Eric Schreck controls his opponent during senior night. Photo from Matt Kaszusbki

As the wrestlers prepare for leagues and counties, Kaszubski said he has two grapplers, 132-pounder Eric Schreck and 160-pound Joe Bartolotto, who are looking to place high in the county. Selg and Marbot, along with seniors 126-pound Dan Curcio and 154-pound Ryan Ammirato, are also looking to make some noise in the postseason by being league champions and placing in the county tournament.

“We knew we had a good crew,” the head coach said. “It’s nice to see all the hard work over the last couple of years come to fruition. Everyone feeds off of each other and they want to win for each other, so it’s been a blessing to coach these kids.”

For wrestlers like Marbot, being a part of the Panthers’ team is something he’ll never forget.

“I’d be lost without wrestling,” he said. “To end the regular season like this, as a senior, it couldn’t have ended any better. We had a good run. Especially being that no one thought we were going to be anything this year, we really showed everyone.”