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Mike Sabella

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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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Mustangs outscore Bayport-Blue Point 38-16 for homecoming victory

Losing senior halfback JoJo Pirreca to injury last week was a huge blow to Mount Sinai’s football team, but a junior fullback stepped up to fill the void.

Fullback and linebacker Mike Sabella scored four touchdowns, one coming on a 35-yard interception return, and added a fumble recovery to lead the Mustangs (4-2 in Division IV) to a 38-16 homecoming win over Bayport-Blue Point Oct. 14.

Mount Sinai’s Mike Sabella dashes into the end zone for a homecoming touchdown Oct. 14. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“It’s a huge win for us after last week’s loss,” Sabella said. “We came together after losing at home and put up big numbers against a competitive team. We needed someone to step up when our halfback went down, and we had multiple players come ready to contribute.”

Sabella was quick to share credit despite totaling 191 yards rushing on 17 carries and returning a kickoff 80 yards for Mount Sinai’s first touchdown of the day.

“Obviously, nothing is more important than coming out and getting the win,” Sabella said. “The numbers I put up and the plays I make don’t matter unless the end result is a win. It was a bit sweeter knowing I played at a high level, but in the end winning the game is what really matters to the team and I.”

Although Bayport-Blue Point got on the board first, Sabella’s kickoff return to the house was a quick answer.

“Running down the field and beating 11 guys for an 80-yard touchdown, there’s not much you can do in a football game that is more exciting than that,” Sabella said. “Celebrating with my teammates in the end zone was an amazing feeling.”

Mount SInai’s Liam McGrath walks in a touchdown during the homecoming football game Oct. 14. Photo by Desirée Keegan

On his pick-six, which gave Mount Sinai the lead for good at 14-7, Sabella said he dropped back to watch for the slant route, which he said Mount Sinai’s coaches stressed in particular to watch for during practice.

“I saw the quarterback drop, got underneath the receiver’s slant route, and the football got thrown right into my hands,” he said. “Taking that interception to the end zone felt just like that kickoff return; it’s something teams just can’t account for. Those are plays that aren’t supposed to happen, and it felt great to make it happen and take that into the end zone.”

During its week of preparation Mount Sinai focused on Bayport-Blue Point’s potent passing attack. The Mustangs defense caused five turnovers, including additional fumble recoveries by Thomas Bokinz, Kevin Johnston and Antonio Palmiotto to go with Sabella’s two takeaways.

“My team executed the game plan the best we could today, and that result of that showed on the scoreboard at the end of the game,” Sabella said. “All week we focused on Bayport’s throwing game, and we caused a lot of struggles for their offense throughout the game, so credit to the coaching staff. On offense, we had a great performance from the linemen, which led to success in the running game. When we execute the game plan we set during the week, we are a very difficult team to deal with.”

Mount Sinai’s Thomas Bokinz holds back a tackler to protect his running back during the homecoming football game Oct. 14. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Mount Sinai junior running back Liam McGrath rushed for 72 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries to officially put the game out of reach. He said the continued support from the audience helped carry him into the end zone.

“It felt great to play in front of the town,” he said. “From the opening touchdown the crowd brought great energy to the team and it definitely set the tone for the rest of the game.”

Sabella said seeing his squad come away with the total team win is a big confidence booster for the important games ahead. Mount Sinai travels to Miller Place (5-1) Oct. 20 for a 6 p.m. game. The Panthers are fresh off a homecoming win of their own over previously undefeated Shoreham-Wading River. The Mustangs will head to Greenport (0-6) Oct. 27 for the final game of the season, currently scheduled for 6 p.m.

“Knowing we have two games left to play in this year’s regular season and we’ve already passed last years win total makes me feel great about our team going forward,” Sabella said. “We’re gaining momentum at the right time, and we’re going to continue to get better every week for playoffs. I believe if we continue on the path we’ve set ourselves on, we can really make some noise this postseason.”