Our congratulations go out once again to the Highlander matmen, this time for their performances at the Locust Valley Invitational Tournament.
It was another long day as one has come to expect from such events (6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. bus-to-bus), but loyal parents and team members keep each other’s spirits up from start to finish, and they were treated to fine performances.
The day began a bit after 9 a.m.
While coaches Cliff Forziat and Mike Miller were involved in the varsity division seeding meeting, coaches Jake Phillips, Nick Castellano. Leo Kouroupos, and Eric Goldberg were guiding Highlander second-man fortunes in their exhibitions. Chris Woska, Jason Liarikos, Mark Holuka, Joe DeVito, Paul Tantillo, and John Vouzonis had two wins apiece. Both Brandon Temperino and Matt “Sticks” Esposito had pin victories.
“Woska and Liarikos are really coming along,” Forziat noted. “They have perfect attendance, are always on time, and they work hard everyday. They’re very coachable and always ready to do whatever the team needs.”
The results so far are impressive. At this stage of the season they have had a combined 55 matches. Woska has 22 victories and Liarikos is right behind him with 21.
“These two sophomores are in the tough middle weights, and they are developing into mature competitors.” Forziat said.
Herricks grapplers won five places in the varsity division. Senior Anthony Rosa powered his way to the 195-pound championship with a pin in the quarterfinals, a 17-1 technical fall in the semis, and a first period pin over MacArthur’s all-conference Tyler Haug in the finals.
Fellow captain Bill Rynne was 3-1 with three pins including one over all-conference Mario Serrano of Glen Cove on his way to a third place finish at 220. He leads the team so far with four tournament places (three finals appearances), a 10-2 record in tournament competition, and 13 varsity pins.
Sophomore Matt Grandelli, now down to the 106 class went 3-1 with three pins including a third period pin over Glen Cove’s all-conference Joe Nicolich in the wrestlebacks. Grandelli also had a third-place finish.
Will Rodriguez (sr-120) and Mike Vespe (jr-145) have fourth-place finishes for Herricks. Both young men were 3-2 on the day in very tough weight classes. Rodriguez knocked off all-conference top-seeded Jose Mejia (Locust Valley) with a bruising 12-3 major decision, and Vespe defeated Nassau County Division II runner-up Elton Gonzalez of Oyster Bay by decision.
John Temperino (jr-152), Will Dowd (sr-220), Mike Lopez (jr-285), and Solomon “N.R.” Aziz (so-285) also won matches for Herricks. Dowd, Lopez, and Aziz had top-six finishes in the tournament.
“These tournaments are long affairs, anywhere from 12 to 18 hours. There have been numerous occasions over the years in which athletes had to weigh in at 7:00 AM and ended up competing for places well after 10 p.m. and sometimes midnight in the conference and county championships. This is a reality that we have to be prepared to deal with in order to be successful at high levels. These invitationals become part of the learning experience.”
Wrestlers are called upon to compete as their weight classes rotate through the action round by round. Warming up and mental preparation become much more individualized.
“While wrestling may appear to be an individual sport, prima donnas and lone wolves are at a distinct disadvantage,” Forziat said. “The close continuous presence of your teammates, their families, your families, and wrestling alumni becomes a source of tremendous encouragement for those who are competing throughout the day. Over the decades this extended family nature of what we do has been a source of strength acknowledged by everyone who has gone through our program at each level from the rawest novices to the All-Americans. It is a reciprocal relationship of the highest order. You give freely to others and you get back ten-fold. It’s pretty special.”
Although the Herricks District cancelled the 21st Annual Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Second-Man Wrestling Festival, the team was able to host a last-minute replacement event on Dec. 30 (perhaps the birth of an annual Auld Lang Syne Festival). Action was more limited, but grapplers from Wantagh, Chaminade, and Locust Valley joined our lads for a fine morning of spirited mat action in farewell to 2011.
Overall the Highlanders were 11-8 coming out ahead of Wantagh (20-5) and Chaminade (18-15), but bowing to Locust Valley (15-21). Sophomore Chris Woska was 3-0 with two pins and an overtime 12-10 decision. Fellow sophomore Jason Liarikos also had three wins, a pin, an 18-1 technical fall and a decision. Freshman John Vouzonis had two pins and a decision win for three victories of his own. Sophomores Brandon Temperino and Matt Grandelli added victories to the team’s totals.
Back from the holidays the Highlanders traveled to Great Neck South to take on the Rebels in a league dual match. Despite the fact that the lads in blue and gray had nobody to fill four weight classes (99, 160, 170, 182) they came out strong.
Grandelli got down to fill the 106 class and won by a major decision. Andrew Farrell (jr) picked up a pin at 120, and was followed by senior Will Rodriguez who won by pin at 126. Mike Vespe (jr.) won by decision at 145.
John Temperino won by a major decision at 152. Seniors Anthony Rosa and Bill Rynne both won by pins at 195 and 220 respectively, and before the mats could be rolled up and put away the Highlanders had come away with a 47-26 victory.
This is a challenging year for the Herricks matmen. Freshman and sophomores are thrust into the starting varsity line up. Sometimes they win, and sometimes, like this day, they fight and hold the score down to keep it in range of their more experienced teammates, whose challenge is to get “big point” wins to try to overcome the forfeit deficits.
At this point the varsity is 6-2 with a tough road ahead, but they are scrappy, and are fighting to meet the challenge.