Herricks matmen score in tourney

Hyram Landers

Wrestlers from Carey, Elmont, Farmingdale, Floral Park, Garden City, Great Neck North, New Hyde Park Memorial, Sewanhaka, and Herricks high schools converged at Wantagh High School last Saturday to compete in the county qualifying tournament hosted by the Wantagh Warriors, the No. 1 ranked team in New York. 

Seven Highlanders won all-conference honors and will advance to the New York State Section VIII (Nassau County) Championship Tournament this weekend in Hofstra’s Mack Arena.

These grueling events really test the resolve of the participants. They work hard the day before to be sure to be on weight. Then it’s up at 5 or 5:30 a.m. to get to the Community Center for a quick weight check before leaving at 6:45 a.m. Official weigh-ins began at 7:30 a.m. at Wantagh. Wrestling began at 10:30 a.m. (a bit late due to computer glitches) and ended just after 8:00 p.m.

Competitors had anywhere from three to five matches becoming progressively tougher each time out. Each wrestler, while part of a team, has to operate somewhat on their own. They prepare mentally and physically for each match independently, and they have to know how to shift between action-mode and stand-by mode as the event progresses.

Senior Corey Iuculano won all-conference honors at 126 on a 3-2 day. This three-time all-conference wrestler picked up two more pin victories along the way to add to his team leading 31 varsity victories so far this season.

Junior Joe DeVito came flying seemingly out of nowhere at 120. He had victories in the quarterfinals and the wrestlebacks losing only to the first and second seeds (two Farmingdale wrestlers ranked 4th and 6th in the County) as he battled his way to all-conference status.

Big Mike “B.A.” Lopez (senior) came through winning all-conference honors at 285. He now has 19 varsity wins on the season and has the opportunity to break past the “20” mark in the county tournament. Nobody is quite certain what “B.A.” stands for, but “CP” Temperino is convinced that it means blocked arteries. “BA has done a great job for us all year,” coach Cliff Forziat noted. “It is great to see him come through with All-Conference honors and a chance to move forward.”

Freshman Matt “Lazarus” Mach won in the quarterfinals by a major decision. He pinned his semifinal opponent. Top-seeded Kyle Quinn, ranked number one in Nassau, turned Mach’s carriage into a pumpkin in the finals, but “Lazarus” earned All-Conference honors as runner-up at 106.

Senior co-captain Mike Vespe won All-Conference honors at 145. He scored two pins and a major decision on his way to the finals where he faced up against top-seeded defending Nassau County runner-up Matt Schmelzinger from Garden City. This knock-down-drag-out brawl was finally decided in the waning seconds by a Schmelzinger reversal giving him his sixth Wrestling Conference Championship, an impressive achievement. “Vespe is getting better and better each time out and is proving that he can go with anybody.”

Fellow co-captain senior Andrew Farrell picked up two more pin victories going 3-0 to improve his career varsity win total to 107. He leads the team so far this year with 19 pins and has 63 in his career putting him in a second place tie on Herricks’ Wrestling School Record chart with Frank Perillo (2008) who has been mentoring Farrell in The Room lately. This is only a sidebar, though. In the semifinals Farrell squared off against second seeded Casey Marlow from Farmingdale ranked 6th in Nassau. 

Farrell pinned Marlow in the second period. Then he went out in the finals against Marlow’s teammate, Naquan Warren, seeded number one and ranked 4th in Nassau.

After a scoreless first period during which both wrestlers launched furious attacks and counterattacks, Farrell won the coin toss and deferred choice of position to Warren to start off the second period. Warren chose neutral, and after another minute of battling on their feet Farrell took Warren down for two points and rode him out. To Warren’s surprise Farrell chose top position to begin the final period. Warren could not escape or reverse Farrell, and with less than a minute remaining the Highlander turned the Daler to his back for a two-point nearfall and rode Warren out for a stiflingly convincing 4-0 victory and the Conference Championship at 120.

John “CP” Temperino took the mat in the 152 pound finals following Vespe’s impressive brawl at 145. “CP” went up against Wantagh’s Connor Contorno ranked 6th in Nassau.  Contorno had beaten Temperino in the Patchogue-Medford Tournament finals back on December 28, and once again this match-up shaped up to be a brawl. “CP” went after the much taller opponent. Contorno scored a takedown and threw one of his powerful leg rides on Temperino, but compact power prevailed. Heeding Forziat’s frequent advice not to get away from opponents, but to attack them, Temperino did just that and pinned Contorno in 31 seconds for a Conference Championship of his own.

“I watched the DVD’s [videos of Contorno’s matches against Temperino and teammate Jason Liarikos at the Pat-Med Tournament] and I knew he was going to use legs,” Temperino said after the match.

The look on his face when his arm was raised in victory was mistaken by many who thought that he had been surprised by his victory, but “CP” later confided that actually he was elated. “I’m going on the wall!” He exclaimed proudly. His name would be added to the Conference/Division Championship Wall of Fame inside “The [Wrestling] Room” where Farrell’s would join his together those names of so many outstanding Highlander Wrestlers from the past.

Senior Paul Tantillo came up a round short of All-Conference honors. “Canis Furiosus Major” was 2-2 with a major decision victory, but the real story goes deeper. “PJ came back from his football injury with a vengeance,” Forziat told us. “A lot of folks thought that he would not wrestle this year. His first competition came in the New Year’s Tournament on January 12th,  some two months into the season. Everyone else was in shape and preparing for the post season, and he was just getting into action. In three weeks he was 14-2 with 9 pins, a technical fall, and two major decisions among his victories. It would be easy to regret what might have been had he been healthy from the beginning, but what he has achieved and the manner in which he went about rising above adversity is inspirational and something truly to be proud of.”

About the author

Hyram Landers

Share this Article