After Corey Connolly’s match-clinching win, he jumped in the arms of assistant coach Anthony Volpe. In that moment, the entire Rocky Point team surrounded them knowing what they just achieved.
“It was amazing,” Connolly said of helping the Eagles to their third consecutive Suffolk County dual meet title Jan. 20 He pinned Brentwood’s Hugo Vasquez in 1 minute, 35 seconds to give his team a commanding 37-3 advantage. “I’m so happy. I’ve waited my whole life to be county champ, and now it’s here. Training with these guys all season — hard work, it actually pays off.”
Rocky Point’s wrestling team beat Brentwood at Bay Shore High School, 37-33 even after chosing to forfeit the final five matches.
“I’m going to wrestle until we clinch,” Rocky Point head coach Darren Goldstein said was his mentality, chosing to protect his final grapplers by not competing if they didn’t need to. “Then when we clinch, we are going to walk off the mat. We are going healthy upstate.”
Senior Jake Pohl (27-10 record) got Rocky Point heading in the right direction when he earned a 5-0 decision over Jean Jasmine at 285 pounds. The Eagles cruised from there.
“It felt really good just knowing I went out there and got the job done,” Pohl said. “Once one person gets going on our team, everyone else gets going. It’s a train you can’t stop.”
Nick LaMorte, a seventh-grader and youngest on Rocky Point’s roster, won in a dazzling 12-9 decision over Fernando Romero in the 99-pound weight class to keep the train rolling.He scored a reversal and two back points in the final 13 seconds for the comeback win.
“It gave us momentum,” Goldstein said. “That can help you build.”
Rocky Point fought in 10 matches and won nine of them, dropping the 106-pound weight class.
After the loss, sophomore Logan Sciotto answered right back for Rocky Point earning a 5-2 decision over Brentwood’s Wenchard Pierre-Louis at 113 pounds. Sophomore Evan Mathias squeezed by Richard Diaz with a 5-3 decision at 120. Senior captain Ryan Callahan won his 138-pound match and classmate Donald Hammarth took his at 145.
Goldstein said he’s excited to be one of the first to represent Suffolk County in the state dual meet championship. Rocky Point will wrestle Jan. 27 at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse. Section XI wrestling chairman Matt DeVincenzo, athletic director at Comsewogue, said 12 teams will be competing in four pools of three teams each, with the winner of each pool heading to the semifinals. The winners of those matchups will face off in the final. The Eagles, in the Division I pool, are grouped with Spencerport (No. 3 seed) and Jamesville-DeWitt, competing on mat three.
“We are going to try our best,” Goldstein said. “We know that we can compete with the best kids in the state — that’s really what we’ve been doing all year long. We got these kids focused, in the right mindset.”
The Bulls have once again dominated League III this season.
Smithtown West’s wrestling team finished the season undefeated at 6-0 with a 57-18 win over visiting Riverhead Jan. 12.
“I have a senior group that’s ready to go, but I seem to have balance ,” head coach Ken Leverich said of the cohesiveness of his unit. “I have ninth graders in the varsity lineup winning matches, tenth graders, juniors and seniors — we look to keep this ball rolling.”
It’s the first time in school history the Bulls have won back-to-back league titles in wrestling. Leverich, who has been at the helm for 13 years, was hesitant to respond with how he felt.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I just like to put numbers up on the banner.”
Smithtown West even had to forego having three starters compete because they were upstate at the Eastern States Classic tournament. Despite their absence, Leverich was content with the backup and depth of his team replacing Kyle Reilly, Matt Weitemeyer and Tim Nagoski.
“When you have three starters away at another tournament, it was a little dicey without them,” Leverich said. “The expectations were a little uncertain versus Riverhead, but we were able to slide guys in with our depth and [they brought home] wins for us. It was big.”
Smithtown West junior 113-pounder Jack Desousa picked up a win and six points with a pin in 1 minute, 35 seconds over Riverhead’s Jason Daman.
“It’s amazing actually —two years in a row is great for our program,” the two-year varsity starter said of being part of another league championship-winning squad, also noting his closeness with Leverich, who he said has become a second father to him. “We have great coaches and I’ve been with them forever. I’ve had [Leverich] as a coach since second grade.”
Senior Jack Swanson finished his final match at Smithtown West with a win over Riverhead’s Chris Dubose in the 182-pound weight class. Leverich said the 10-3 decision over Riverhead’s Chris Debose was the highlight of the night.
“He stepped up and beat another county-ranked kid,” the head coach said of Swanson. “He’s got a ton of wins this season. He’s done a great job.”
At the 195-pound weight class, Smithtown West’s Steven Zimmerman pinned Romel Richards in 5:38 to give the Bulls a 37-3 advantage.
Leverich raved about freshman Nicholas Germano, who despite winning against Riverhead at 99 pounds as a result of a forfeit has only lost one match all season.
“He’s a little stud,” Leverich said of his 17-1 grappler. “Weight class 99 is where we should go furthest this year.”
Smithtown West junior James Campanelle earned a major decision over Jared Cawley (9-1) at 120 pounds, as did freshman Logan Hutter over Dominic Bossey (10-1) at 126.
Leverich said even with some of the boys’ close losses he was happy with how his Bulls performed.
“I wasn’t disappointed in any of my boys tonight,” he said. “They all wrestled well.”
Patriots send some wrestlers upstate to compete, rest others in loss to Sachem East
By Bill Landon
Ward Melville’s wrestling team looked to cap off its undefeated regular season with another win Jan. 12, but with key competitors away at Eastern States Classic, it was a tall order for the Patriots to fill, which fell to Sachem East 51-27 on their home mat.
“We knew it was going to be a little tight,” said Ward Melville head coach Garrett Schnettler, noting his five starters away at the tournament. “Once we got [beyond] 138 pounds we knew it was going to be tight.”
Eastern States Classic tournament
Away at Sullivan County Community College in Loch Sheldrake, All-County senior Rafael Lievano notched his 100th career victory at 132 pounds. Junior Tom Fitzsimmons and senior Richie Munoz also competed.
Ward Melville senior 160-pounder Nabeel Ahmed struck first for his team, winning the opening match 10-6. The Patriots gathered additional points with a pair of Sachem East forfeits at 170 and 182 pounds, and senior Kevin Vera won his match 8-2 at 195 pounds to put his team out front 14-0.
From there, the Patriot lead slowly slipped away, with losses in the 220 and 285-pound weights classes before eighth-grader Christian Lievano started off the lighter weights with a pin at 2:39 over Sachem East’s John Tietjan at 99 pounds.
Sachem East got back in the win column at 106, 113 and 120 pounds to give the Flaming Arrows their first lead of the match, 26-24, and never looked back.
Ward Melville senior Ryan Mc Namara said the loss will have no effect on him or his teammates in preparation for the postseason, even if the win would have set a regular season record.
“Tonight’s loss isn’t going to phase us,” said Mc Namara, who was bumped from 170 to 185 so a junior varsity player could compete. Mc Namara won by forfeit. “We didn’t have as much experience, but they gave it their best. We’ll have everyone back in their spots in the lineup and we’ll give it our all [Wednesday].”
Ward Melville competes in the opening round of the newly created Suffolk County dual championship Jan. 17. Bracket information was not readily available for who the Patriots will compete against. Matches are currently scheduled to take place at 4 p.m.
“The guys at Eastern States, they’re doing pretty well,” said sophomore Dan Cassera, who was able to execute a pair of takedowns to pull away with a 9-6 win at 138 pounds. “We’re going to work hard [to get ready for Wednesday], put in a lot of practice, see what we did wrong and correct those things.”
Away at Sullivan County Community College in Loch Sheldrake, All-County senior Rafael Lievano notched his 100th career victory at 132 pounds. Junior Tom Fitzsimmons and senior Richie Munoz were also away.
“We’re already looking forward,” Schnettler said following the loss. “We take it one match at a time, and now we’re getting ready for the next meet. The guys are focused. We could’ve made tonight’s match closer, but we thought long term — gave some guys the rest who needed it — because round one of the dual meet championship is way more important than us going undefeated in the league.”
Landslide victories help Eagles to seventh straight league crown
By Jim Ferchland
These Eagles are flying high.
Like the opportunistic foragers they represent, Rocky Point’s wrestlers saw how close they were to another undefeated league season, and grabbed it by easily outscoring Amityville and Westhampton Beach to finish the season 6-0.
“Our team has been grinding throughout the year,” senior captain Ryan Callahan said. “We’ve had a lot of tough matches; we’ve had some tough teams we’ve battled, but every team will get their bumps and bruises.”
Amityville had to bow out of six matches — weight classes 99 to 132 — giving Rocky Point a 36-point lead right out of the gate on the way to a 74-9 victory Jan. 10. Sal Aprile pinned Amityville’s Nestor Rivera in the 182-pound weight class to give Rocky Point 67 consecutive points.
“It’s a rarity, but not so much with Amityville,” Rocky Point head coach Darren Goldstein said of the multiple forfeits.
Callahan (22-4 at 138 pounds) and Don Hammarth (16-1 at 145 pounds) won by technical falls, outscoring their opponents by 15 points for automatic wins.
Callahan said Goldstein has taught him everything he knows about wrestling.
“I’ve been around him since I was 5 years old,” Callahan said. “He taught me everything about the sport; everything about competing. He taught me great sportsmanship and to enjoy sports.”
Rob Pliska gave the Eagles four points with a major decision over Amityville’s Angel Zavala, 8-0, at 152 pounds, and Corey Connolly won 5-0 at 160 pounds.
The Eagles only continued their winning ways at Westhampton Jan. 11 with another dominant win.
Mickey Gold, Justin Amendola, Anthony Sciotto and Darren Ketcham each pinned their challengers, which alone would have handed Rocky Point sole possession of the League VI title. Rocky Point won the dual meet 67-12.
Callahan and Connolly teched their opponents, and Hammarth pulled out an 11-3 major decision.
“We’ve had a share of the league title for the last seven years straight,” Goldstein said. “We are proud, but we set big goals in the beginning. We work year round.”
Rocky Point finishes the regular season 11-1 overall, with the sole loss being to League V’s Eastport-South Manor the first meet of the season. Goldstein is proud to see how his grapplers bounced back, giving it their all at each meet after. He’s looking forward to seeing what his Eagles can do in the Suffolk County brackets.
“We didn’t wrestle our best to Eastport-South Manor, but we’ve been rolling ever since,” Goldstein said. “When the county dual comes, you can’t run away.”
The Mustangs took pinning down their opponents quite literally Tuesday.
Mount Sinai’s wrestling team made short work of visiting Southampton Jan. 9, scoring almost as many points from forfeits as it did wins in a 90-0 win, with all nine of the grapplers matchups resulting in pins in the first or second period.
The fastest victory of the evening was from 160-pounder Joe Goodrich, a sophomore who had his hand raised just 28 seconds into his match. Junior Mike Ruggieri’s challenger at 285 didn’t fare much better, falling
victim to the Mustang in 33 seconds.
“We knew that [Southampton is] very young, and we had a pretty good chance to win with a good team this year, but we wanted to make sure that we’re still wrestling well,” Mount Sinai head coach Matt Armstrong said. “We kept a couple of kids out of the match tonight because they’re not 100 percent, and we want to be at full strength for the start of the dual meet championships.”
Mount Sinai will compete in the Suffolk County individual championships Jan. 12 before the dual meet championships, which begin Jan. 17.
“The strength of our team is how close we all are — if one kid’s over[weight] we’ll all go in the gym, we’ll all run,” said senior Jake Croston, who won his 220-pound matchup due to a forfeit. “And if a kid wants to work on something that beat him in practice, we all stay after to help him work on that.”
Michael Zarif, who won his match by forfeit at 138 pounds, agreed with Croston about Mount Sinai’s ingredients for success.
“We’re working hard every day in practice — we just keep going, we never stop working toward the county title,” the senior said. “And that’s our goal, that’s what we’re working for this year. This is kind of a warm-up.”
Matt Campo, a 126-pound sophomore who eclipsed the 100-match win mark this season and placed third in the state last season, spent little time in the ring, but still topped his opponent with a pin at the 1:32 mark.
“[This win] gives me a lot of confidence going into the county competition — I feel I should have a good tournament,” he said. “I’m looking forward to seeing some good competition, get a win and go back to the states this year.”
Armstrong pointed to eighth-grader Joe Sabella as a standout in the gym for his level of dedication and unparalleled work ethic despite being the youngest in the group.
“Joe has come up and helped fill the lineup and has been seeing success more lately due the fact of how hard he works every day,” the coach said. “I’m very proud of him sticking this out and finally seeing some success.”
The 113-pounder wasted no time pinning his challenger at 1:26 to bank six more points for his team.
“[I have to] just attack — I can’t play it safe when I don’t have the advantage,” the young competitor said. “When I had my legs [around him], that’s when I knew I had the advantage and he couldn’t get up.”
Junior Vin Valente came away with another fast pin at 152 pounds, winning in 1:06. According to Armstrong, Valente has made tremendous progress over last year and, as with all of his Mustangs, has high expectations for him this postseason.
“Vin has also improved so much from last season,” Armstrong said. “I hope to see him and the rest of my guys place high this year in the Division II county tournament.”
Panic could have set in for Port Jefferson, but its wrestlers remained calm under pressure.
With sole possession of the League VIII title on the line in a 24-24 meet against Center Moriches Jan. 9, the core of the Royals lineup came through, as it always has, to help Port Jefferson to a 41-34 away victory and first conference crown since 2012.
“It was an awesome feeling being able to win the league title, and seeing how excited my team and coaches are to achieve this,” 132-pounder Vin Miceli said. “I think we wrestled tough, but there were some matches where we could use some work.”
At 126 pounds, senior Robbie Williams sparked the turnaround. He had lost to his Center Moriches opponent, Dustin Dunkirk, twice before in close matches, and Port Jefferson head coach Mike Maletta said he thought maybe psychologically Williams felt he couldn’t beat him. The coach said he considered matching his grappler up against someone else, but at a tournament in New Rochelle, where Williams went 2-2 and was one match away from placing, Maletta saw him wrestle through adversity.
“When he was coming off the mat I said, ‘You did a good job today,’ and he said, ‘No, coach, if I did a good job today I’d be placing,’” Maletta said of the conversation between he and Williams Jan. 6. “My mentality changed, and I told him he’s going to face his opponent head-to-head.”
Williams started off 2-0, scoring back points early, and earned three more on a near pin to end the scoring for the first period. He score two more points with 44 seconds left in the third to go up 7-0, before surrendering a point when letting his opponent loose with the hope of taking him down again for a major decision, which he couldn’t get before time expired.
“He ended up a takedown away from bonus points,” Maletta said. “That’s not only flipping the score, that’s making a statement — and he’s wrestling up a weight class because he’s really a 120-pounder. He’s wrestling well at the right time, and I felt pretty confident where we were going to go from there.”
Miceli, who is undefeated, and 19-3 Joe Evangelista followed up Williams and backed up the head coach’s confidence.
The five-year grapplers took to the circle with Miceli also coming away with a 5-0 lead heading into the second period of his match. At 1:06, he got two takedown points and worked for a cradle, but couldn’t complete it, though grabbing three points for his effort and a 10-0 lead going into the final two minutes. He earned two back points to start the third, and let his opponent loose to try to get the pin or a final takedown for a technical fall. At the buzzer, he cradled his opponent once following his fourth takedown to earn the 17-1 major decision.
“I felt I didn’t wrestle to my full potential during my match, and realize there is still more I need to improve on,” Miceli said. “I felt worried and frustrated at first that I was not able to get those bonus points, but I knew my teammates after me would give their opponents a good fight.”
Ryan Robertson, a 138-pounder, went up against a Top 8 state wrestler in Donald Wood and was pinned at the 1:21 mark to help Center Moriches close within five points overall, 35-30, but the 145-pound Evangelista pinned his opponent in 4:06 to seal the deal.
“He does what is expected of him, he pins his guy and the match is out of Center Moriches’ hands,” Maletta said. “It’s great — it’s kind of tough to celebrate on a Monday, but they’re true wrestlers anyway because they’re right back at it ready to get to practice tomorrow and fix their mistakes.”
Conrad Sund and brothers Anthony and Rick D’Elia came away with pins for Port Jefferson. Harry Cona and Brendan Rogers earned one-point victories, 1-0 and 4-3. Maletta said it was those matches that meant all the difference in the win.
“If either one of those went the other way we wouldn’t have won the title,” Maletta said. “They all came to wrestle; they all showed up to compete, which was great to see. The coaching is done at this point and they have to respond to situations, and they did.”
Chris Lepore, a senior who battled his challenger to a 2-0 finish for the second win of the night, said he sees things only escalating for Port Jefferson from this point.
“I’m loving where we’re going,” he said. “Getting a league title [in] my senior year is special, and we’ve all been working hard to get there, but what makes us so successful is we don’t focus on the bigger picture. We psyche ourselves up to win our match, push ourselves to the limit and put ourselves in the best position to support our team.”
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.
“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.”
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.
“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.”
For the first time in five years Mattituck lost a wrestling met.
Port Jefferson handed the Tuckers their first loss in five years, 37-32, at an away meet Dec. 22. Port Jefferson also topped Mattituck its last loss five years ago, according to head coach Mike Maletta.
Matt Murphy won a 7-0 decision over David Jenkins in the deciding match at 170 pounds. Anthony D’Elia picked up a key 9-3 win over Sean Feeney at 99 pounds for the Royals, and Jack Niederburger won 1-0 at 195 pounds.
“The kids felt great about it, I felt great about it,” Maletta said. “We fought well.”
He said his athletes felt even better when he said he’d cancel practice the next two days before holiday break.
“I told them on the bus ride home,” he said. “I think they were more excited because I gave them the next few days off from practice.”
At the next tournament at West Islip, the Royals took second out of 11 teams.
“We fell short of matching Brentwood, but it’s 20 times the size of our school,” Maletta said. “I’m proud of how we did.”
Port Jefferson’s 138-pounder Vin Miceli claimed his fourth straight West Islip tournament win, and Joey Evangelista was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler for being the other Port Jefferson grappler to place first after coming in second the last couple years.
“The success I’ve had so far has really proven that all the extra hard work and long hours I put into this sport is what separates me from champion and runner-up,” Miceli said. “I have the same mentality going into every tournament or match, no matter who I am wrestling, that I am predator and not the prey.”
Other key seniors this season have been Chris Lepore at 182 pounds, Joe Longo at 160 and Robbie Williams at 120, according to the head coach.
“Chris Lepore is a senior that’s been very important to us,” Maletta said. “Robbie Williams does a lot of extra work.”
Port Jefferson hosted Babylon Jan. 3, but results were not available by press time. The Royals will face Center Moriches on the road Jan. 5 in a league title-deciding meet currently scheduled for 4:30 p.m.
“I feel very confident that we can beat Center Moriches,” Miceli said. “The way we train and the knowledge we have in our coaching staff really helps prepare us for a time like this.”
Mattituck beat Center Moriches, so if Port Jefferson wins, they’ll win the league title for the first time since 2012.
“You get nostalgic,” Maletta said. “I’ve coached Vin and Joey since they were eighth-graders, half of my time coaching here, and it’s been great to see them become young men. I only wish for good things for all of these guys. We have a lot more wrestling to go, and the countdown is on.”
Port Jeff Royals set the bar high this wrestling season
By Bill Landon
For Port Jefferson senior Vin Miceli, grabbing gold was a nice way to kick off the individual season. The 132-pounder placed first at the 47th annual Huntington Holiday Tournament Dec. 2, and was also voted Most Outstanding Wrestler by all of the coaches in attendance.
Miceli, who has committed to wrestle for Division I Bloomsburg University next year, said there’s no secret to competing at the level he does. He said the sacrifices he makes pay off on the mat.
“It takes a lot of hard work — there’s no stopping and there’s no offseason for me — I’m always in the wrestling room,” said Miceli, who will start the season competing in the 126-pound weight class, hoping to transition to 120 by midseason. “I have my brother and good friends to train with, so it’s nonstop. I have about 90 matches in the offseason.”
Despite its size, Port Jefferson has a rich tradition of cultivating wrestling talent year in and year out, and according to first-year assistant coach Jesse Meaney, the sport is unique in several ways.
“Wrestling isn’t like other sports where you need 100 kids coming out to have a successful team — the work that they put in is the success they will come away with,” Meaney said. “And repetition is the key. You have to drill things 1,000 times in order for it to become muscle memory, so at the end of the week, the kids have drilled things to where they’re technically perfect.”
Port Jefferson faced off against the best of Huntington, Kings Park, Farmingdale, Patchogue-Medford, Comsewogue and Grand Street Campus (Brooklyn).
Junior Rick D’Elia placed second at 113 pounds, as did senior Joe Evangelista at 152 pounds.
Meaney reiterated that being a large school with a larger talent pool isn’t the same type of advantage it is in other sports.
“Wrestling isn’t a sport that discriminates, if you have kids that are willing to put in the work and that are willing to listen to the coaches, you can have a successful program,” he said.
Junior Brendan Rogers placed third at 120 pounds, as did classmate Ryan Robertson and sophomore Jack Neiderberger at 138 and 195 pounds. Placing fourth were seniors Joe Longo and Chris Lepore and junior Harry Cona in 152, 182 and 220 pounds, respectively.
When asked what his goals were for his senior season, Miceli didn’t hesitate.
“I’m a senior on a mission — my goal is to win states,” Miceli said. “That’s been my goal since I’ve joined the team.”
The Royals compete in two more invitationals — Harborfields’ Steven J. Mally Memorial and their own Bob Armstrong Cup — before opening the league season on the road against Mattituck Dec. 21.
Robert Christ’s story is one head coach Matt Armstrong will be telling for a long time.
In the senior’s first two seasons on Mount Sinai’s wrestling team, the 285-pound grappler didn’t win a single match. Now, he’s a county champion.
Christ was one of five Mustangs to grab gold last weekend at the Suffolk County Division II championship at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood.
Christ looked to his coaches for guidance, knowing they’d been to the county and state tournaments, but according to Armstrong, his wrestler deserves all of the credit.
“We pointed to him all season as an example of what wrestling and sports are all about — through hard work you can achieve anything,” Armstrong said. “The fact that he’s doing as well as he is — it’s a great story. It shows if you don’t like where you are, just work harder and you can achieve great things. He’s in a 285-pound weight class when he weighs 220 pounds, so he’s given up a lot, but nobody works harder than him.”
Christ won his qualifying match 1-0, edged out his semifinal competitor 1-0 and claimed a 3-0 decision over his final opponent of the tournament.
Although he’d faced his semifinal competitor before, he came out tougher than Christ expected, but the finals match was what had him on edge.
“The first match was at 9 a.m. and I had to wait until 8 p.m. that night for my finals match, thinking about it the entire time,” he said. “I remember being out there wrestling — I couldn’t believe I was on that mat. I was nervous, I didn’t want to mess up, but I tried not to let the nerves get to me. To pull away with the win was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had in sports. You put in so much time and effort into one thing and after so many months and years to finally have it pay off was awesome.”
Christ was new to the county stage, and so was teammate Mike Sabella.
A sophomore, the 182-pounder was one of the youngest on the team to take the trip upstate. Freshman Matt Campo also finished atop the podium.
“I’ve learned how to overcome my obstacles and win big matches, and that’s due in part to our great seniors who are really good role models for the underclassmen.”
Sabella was overwhelmed by the enormous crowd he was going to compete in front of, but made his way through his qualifier round and semifinal matchup with pins in the first and second period.
“Getting those pins reassured me that I was in the tournament for a reason,” he said. “Knowing I was facing some of the best kids in the county was a confidence booster.”
Campo also came away with three pins in the tournament. For the 113-pounder, who has been on the team since seventh grade, making weight was the hardest part of the two-day tournament.
“Our team is really tough,” said Campo, who was a league champion last year. “I wrestle guys who are usually stronger than me, so I have to out-technique them. I’ve learned how to overcome my obstacles and win big matches, and that’s due in part to our great seniors who are really good role models for the underclassmen.”
Sabella can relate to that. He worked primarily with one of the team’s leaders, Jason Shlonsky, who was the Champion of Champions at the tournament and had the most pins in the least amount of time.
“I usually wrestle defensively, and he’s a goon on offense, so whenever Jay would try to shoot, I would try to find a way to defend it,” Sabella said. “Knowing he was a very good wrestler — wrestling him for the last couple of months got me really ready for counties. I went in with the mindset that I should be winning.”
He credits the work he put in with Shlonsky as the reason he won his finals match — a 3-2 decision.
“I’d wrestled the kid before and he knew what I was doing, so it was hard to get the shots I wanted,” he said. “I had to switch to some different moves, which is where wrestling with Jay all year helped me.”
Shlonsky said he’s learned just as much from Sabella as his teammate did from him.
“He and I got really close throughout the season and we both helped each other out,” he said. “We have different styles, so learning how to work with those different styles was important for both of us.”
The Champion of Champions was an ideal Mustang for Sabella to pair with. Although he took a year off from wrestling his junior year, the 170-pounder went 28-0 in his final season, with 25 wins coming from pins. Although he said he tries not to focus on winning or losing, he said that did play a factor in his first qualifying match, which earned him his 100th career win.
“I tried to keep a level head and focus on what I do best, rather than my opponent,” he said. “I go in telling myself that I need to worry about my own offense, and I’m constantly looking to score points. When I do that, things turn out in my favor.”
Joe O’Brien, at 132 pounds, also came away a county champion. In the finals, he wrestled Port Jefferson’s Vin Miceli, a year-round, accomplished wrestler.
“He really dominated,” Armstrong said of O’Brien. “Joe is really peaking at the right time. He looked very good and I’m excited to see what he can do at states this weekend.”
The Mustangs will be competing at the Times Union Center in Albany Feb. 24 and 25.
It’s already been a season to remember for Mount Sinai, but the boys are hoping to show New York what Suffolk County is made of.
“It’s a fairytale ending,” Shlonsky said of his season so far. “Coming back not being on the mat much was an unbelievable feeling. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”