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Matteo DeVincenzo

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You had to see it to believe it. Joey Collins led his team out to the mat as the volume was raised on the sound system — the music blasted as WWE wrestler John Cena sang, “Your time is up, my time is now.  You can’t see me, my time is now.”

Collins, a senior with Down syndrome, has been on the Port Jefferson wrestling team for four years. He took center stage Dec. 22 during the Port Jefferson Bob Armstrong Tournament.

Facing a Riverhead opponent, Collins started the period on top before his opponent broke free. Face to face, his Blue Waves challenger grabbed his right leg, and instead of taking Collins down, fell on his back, where Collins jumped on the opportunity to hoist up his opponent’s leg for the pin and a win in the consolation match. He said the song he loves got him ready to compete.

Joey Collins gears up to compete. Photo from Joe Collins

“It got me more pumped,” he said. “It was the best moment of my entire career.”

As the mat was slapped three times to decide his fate, the cluster of wrestlers alongside him leaped up in celebration. Collins, engulfed by the excitement and cheers from the crowd, stood up and waved his hands, imploring the fans in attendance to keep up the noise.

“I love being a part of a team,” Collins said. “It’s exciting. I work hard and do something for me that betters myself.”

His father, Joe Collins, was moved by what he’d just witnessed, but said his initial thoughts were a little different based on his son’s reaction.

“Part of me was saying, ‘Jeeze Joey, you need to tone it down a little bit,’” he said, laughing. “He’s not the most gracious celebrator, but the reaction was so positive from everybody and I was really, really pleased that he was enjoying it so much. I felt proud of him and I loved the way he jumped into his coach’s arms and slapped hands with all his teammates. I also thought about how proud Joey’s mother would have been.”

Collins’ mother Mary Beth died last November following a lengthy battle with cancer. The father recalled the first time his son, who became an avid wrestling figurine collector in middle school after idolizing his cousin’s collection, took part in a wrestling match at the end of his freshman year. He had been practicing with the team, but finally competed in his first consolation match, which are matches that don’t factor in to a team’s score for a meet.

“My wife clutched my forearm, seeing his face against the mat looking up at her, and everyone was screaming for him to stay on his belly to keep from getting pinned,” Joe Collins said. “It was very exciting. We were nervous and proud to see him out there. We were thankful and grateful he’s getting the opportunity to play like that with other kids.”

Joey Collins practices for his next match. Photo from Joe Collins

Port Jefferson head coach Mike Maletta said he remembers when Joey Collins’ mother approached him following the Mount Sinai meet.

“She walked over to me very sternly, and I was afraid of how she was going to take it,” he said. “But she put her hand out and said, ‘Thank you,’ and walked away.”

From that moment Collins was hooked. He was used to cheering his teammates on from the side of the mat with Maletta, but finally got the opportunity to compete, although still frequenting the sideline to cheer on friend and teammate Matteo DeVincenzo, a prominent wrestler in the program who won county and state titles.

“It always warms my heart when I see Joey sitting next to the coach and yelling encouragement for kids like Matteo and his older brother Tristan,” Joe Collins said.  “It was a nice turnaround for Joey to be encouraging someone else. That was really neat to see.”

DeVincenzo also enjoyed it.

“I thought of Joey just like I thought of anyone else on the team — a wrestler,” DeVincenzo said. “He was a member of the team and deserved to be treated the same as everyone else. It felt great to have Joey’s support. It was evident that he looked up to me and that was gratifying and impactful.  Knowing that I was someone that he could use as a model and mentor was very self-fulfilling. It was inspiring working with Joey and watching him grow over the years. He truly grew into a young man on and off the mat. Joey was a symbol of hope and heart for the team. Whenever we were struggling or down in the dumps, one glance at Joey could enhance anyone’s day. If Joey could do it, anyone could.”

Joey Collins said he enjoys the camaraderie between him and his teammates, too, something he said he learned from Maletta.

“He taught me how to become a better wrestler,” Collins said. “He taught me how to train and how to work hard. I love to cheer my team on. I love getting involved with the sport. I love being a wrestler.”

Although Maletta said at first having Collins on the team presented a set of unique challenges, he and the wrestlers have warmed up to their fellow Royal.

Joey Collins shows off his WWE wrestling belt. Photo from Joe Collins

“The first year it was a handful,” he said. “I tried to think of how I was going to work with guys that were focused on winning state titles, but by his second year he got better at being in practice. He was able to stay on task longer, and I treated him like every other kid. We try to raise expectations and he wrestled some good matches.  Joey goes out there and he wrestles hard no matter what.”

He competed in multiple matches in his sophomore year, and was joined by his twin brother Jack Collins, a football standout who is also currently on the basketball team.

“Wrestling with Joe was a blast,” Jack Collins said. “At practice you could really feel the radiance he gives off when wrestling and learning. Wrestling is a huge part of his life. He loves it and the sport has been good to him. It taught him a lot as well about morals. Athletics have been a great way for me and Joe to connect.”

After missing some of his junior season when his mother passed away, Maletta said he was excited to see Collins return to the team his senior year, noting that he’s one of six “watchmen,” seniors who have been on the team since they were freshman. Last year, none of the seniors had been on the team all four years, and prior to that, there were just two.

“Wrestling was a good distraction for him,” Maletta said. “I told him he’s a senior now, and I’m putting him in matches for real. It would be a disservice for him to not ever really go out there and know what it’s like to win or lose and feel the emotions of the sport.”

Maletta said it’s been a pleasure to watch Collins grow.

“He’s matured in the room, he’s part of the team,” he said. “It’s sad he won’t be in the room next year.”

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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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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

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Eleven Royals place in Division II tournament

Port Jefferson's Matteo DeVincenzo competes for a county wrestling title. Photo by Bill Landon

For the fourth time in his varsity career, Matteo DeVincenzo has done it again.

The Port Jefferson wrestler is headed back to states after a 15-0 win over Lajess Sawyer of Center Moriches in the 126-pound final of the Suffolk High School Wrestling Division II championship Saturday night — a win that earned him his fourth county champion title.

Teammates Rick D’Elia and Joe Evangelista also took first at 99 and 120 pounds, respectively. Vin Miceli took second at 113 pounds, falling 3-2 to his Mattituck challenger Jack Bokina, and Dallas Brett was pinned by Babylon’s Bryan Larsen at 145 pounds to put him at second atop the podium.

As a sophomore, DeVincenzo became the first Long Island wrestler ever to capture a D-II state title when he won at 106 pounds. As a junior, he finished third in the state tournament, and this is his last year to try for another state title.

After the disappointing end to his junior season, DeVincenzo is hoping to join Jamie St. John as the only Port Jefferson wrestler to win two state championships in any division.

So far this season, DeVincenzo earned a first-place finish at the David Sorenson Memorial Invitational held at Long Island Lutheran in Brookville, and a week later got a second first-place crown at the Eastern States Classic, held at Sullivan County Community College in Loch Sheldrake. To earn that latter title, DeVincenzo defeated three other state champions from a field of 60 wrestlers, and was voted Champion of Champions by his peers.

DeVincenzo’s winning season continued when he set a school record of 141 career wins during the Armstrong Cup, held in Port Jefferson on Jan. 30.

The graduating senior, who will attend Princeton University in the fall, is now a four-time Armstrong Cup champion, which according to head coach Mike Maletta has never been done before by any wrestler. He surpassed brother Tristin DeVincenzo’s record 137 wins in his first match there.

Also placing in the consolation finals at the county championship were Brendan Rodgers at 99 pounds, who pinned his opponent at 2:59; the 106-pound Robert Williams, who outscored his opponent 6-3; Joe Longo at 132 pounds, who was pinned by his challenger; Alex Frohnen, who was defeated by his opponent 2-1, at 138 pounds; Jack Collins, who lost 7-1 at 160 pounds; and Ryan Walsh, who did not have a challenger at 195 pounds.

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

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.”

Matteo DeVincenzo stands atop the podium after his first-place finish at the Eastern States tournament. Photo from Port Jefferson school district
Matteo DeVincenzo stands atop the podium after his first-place finish at the Eastern States tournament. Photo from Port Jefferson school district

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.”

Joe Evangelista controls his opponent. Photo from Mike Maletta
Joe Evangelista controls his opponent. Photo from Mike Maletta

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.”

Rick D’Elia competes in his final match of the LuHi Tournament. Photo from Mike Maletta
Rick D’Elia competes in his final match of the LuHi Tournament. Photo from Mike Maletta

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.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Port Jefferson wrestler Matteo DeVincenzo has committed to Princeton University. Photo from Port Jefferson school district

Port Jefferson senior and wrestling champion Matteo DeVincenzo has committed to attend Princeton University and join the school’s athletic program next fall.

“I found the school’s wrestling and strong academic offering to be a good fit for me,” he said. “University representatives were very welcoming to me during my visits and I am looking forward to working with the coach.”

DeVincenzo said he intends to study business and finance while also wrestling for the Tigers. As a junior, DeVincenzo earned the Eastern States Crown before moving onto the state tournament, where he took the bronze.

Port Jefferson school district extended its congratulations to DeVincenzo. The school is confident he will continue to bring the Royals pride through his future achievements.