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.”
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.