14 Highlanders place in tourney

Hyram Landers

Sixteen loyal Highlanders competed in the 20th Annual New Year’s Invitational Wrestling Tournament. They won 45 individual matches, and by day’s end 14 of these young fellows had won place awards

An ad hoc cadre composed of the Highlanders’ dedicated coaching staff consisting of Mike Miller, Eric Goldberg, Clint Bodo, and Middle School coaches Leo Kouroupos and Seth Cook under the direction of head coach Cliff Forziat working together with outstanding support from parents, family members, friends and literally generations of Herricks wrestling alumni staged an impressive interscholastic competition event. Some 343 individual matches took place in the Muller Arena and “The Room” adjacent to it.

John “Compact Power” Temperino pinned his first three opponents followed by a 7-4 decision over Ryan Bartell of Mt. Hope High School (Rhode Island). His final victory on a 5-0 day came over Smithtown Christian’s former all-county wrestler Matt Migliore 8-3 in the finals. This marked CP’s second straight tournament championship in his third straight tournament finals appearance.

“John always looks like he’s standing in a hole when he shakes hands with his opponents,” Forziat noted. “Migliore had to be 10 or 11 inches taller. Referee Nick DeAnna looked over to me and wanted to know if these two were in the same weight class.” CP brought his chain saw (figuratively speaking) and took care of business in winning first place gold at 152.

Andrew Farrell went 4-1 for second place at 120. He had two pins and a technical fall victory among his wins, but dropped a hard-fought close decision to Smithtown Christian’s Peter Schneider, a defending Suffolk County all-county D-2 wrestler (the coach’s son) in the finals. 

In another hard-fought finals match Corey Iuculano dropped a 6-7 decision to Suffern’s Daiton Powell at 126. Iuculano finished the day 4-1 with two more pins to his credit and a team-leading third technical fall victory. At this point he leads the team with 24 varsity victories and 124 team points as well. Iuculano defeated Mt. Hope’s Alan St. Vincent by pin in the semifinals. St. Vincent was fifth in Rhode Island last year.

Mike Vespe finished in second place at 160. He had won the day before at 145. This day he came in at 152 and bumped up to 160. He outscored his first two opponents 11-2, pinning one of them. In the finals he faced Bailey Ziobro from Mt. Hope. Ziobro was third in Rhode Island last year. This was a battle that Ziobro won by decision, but Vespe did a good job wrestling up and could well become a contender at 145 in Nassau.

Mike “BA” Lopez finished in second place at 285. “BA” notched his 18th varsity victory of the season and has won five tournament places. Lopez had a barn-burner against Suffern’s Clifford Joseph, who came out hard and fast, but “BA” stayed with him and despite furious action the match was tied 1-1 at the end of the six minute regulation time. They battled through the first one minute overtime period, but the score remained 1-1. Joseph went up 3-2 with 14 seconds remaining in the third overtime, but Lopez scored an escape to knot the score at 3. “BA” won 4-3 during the 4th “sudden victory” overtime. (Conditioning baby!)

Sophomore John Vouzonis had a pin and a major decision win, but dropped a tough 1-0 overtime decision to Mt. Hope senior Chris Machado to finish in second place at 138. This was Vouzonis’ first varsity tournament place. He has 14 varsity wins so far this season.

Four Highlanders won third place awards. Freshman Matthew Mach was 2-1 with two pins at 106. Anthony “Canis Furiosus Minor” had two pins on his way to third at 113. Joe DeVito added two pins to his record while going 4-1 at 120. Chris Woska was 3-1 with two pins at 138.

Four Highlanders won medals on the Second-Man mats. Paul “Canis Furiosus Major” made his season debut. “PJ worked diligently to recover from a nasty broken leg injury that he suffered during football,” Forziat informed us. “A lot of folks figured that he would not wrestle this year, but we got him weight certified to satisfy New York State, and he applied himself religiously at rehabilitation. Today we unleashed him.” Tantillo went 5-0 with four pins and a technical fall victory to bring home gold at 145.

First year wrestler Mark Ginter was 4-1 with three pins to win runner-up silver at 120. Ginter is breaking the code, so to speak. He has been tossed into the deep end of the pool by sparring with DeVito, Farrell, and Iuculano, and this crash course has enabled him to make significant progress in only two months.

Andrew Chu had two pins on his way to third place at 113, and Matt Esposito had a pin victory and finished in fourth place at 120.

There are no shortcuts to success. These dedicated young fellows and their coaches put in six days each week honing their skills. Teamwork is the essential ingredient, and the on-going assistance freely given by the alumni is clearly indicative of the fundamental importance of the group in preparing the individuals for the difficult one-on-one challenges before them. 

They work “hard” in practice, a cliché term bandied about haphazardly by some. The typical practice session in “The Room” results in a three- to eight-pound weight loss depending upon the individual. They go home, replenish and return for more the next day. This work ethic has translated into match time stamina. They compete “hard.” They wear down opponents, and so far as a group they have defeated 286 adversaries.

Tomorrow they host their 18th Annual Highlander Wrestling Invitational Tournament. Wantagh ranked number one in New York D-1, and Nassau County’s top-ranked D-2 Locust Valley will be there together with Suffolk County’s highly regarded Hauppauge, along with Nassau’s Port Washington, Carle Place, Hempstead and Plainview. Mat action is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. in the Muller Arena.

Sunday’s Wrestling Alumni Reunion will take place at the Davenport Press Restaurant on Main Street in Mineola from noon to 4 p.m. The banter never ends, and always … always is rich in Highlander wrestling traditions.

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Hyram Landers

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