Highlanders score in tourney

Hyram Landers

Just when you may have thought that there was nothing much going on up on The Hill the Wrestling Team opened up its 55th year by hosting the 41st Annual Herricks Invitational Wrestling Tournament (the longest continuously running invitational wrestling tournament on Long Island) featuring teams from several New York State Sections; Massapequa (Section VIII – Nassau County), Mahopac and Edgemont (Section I – Westchester), Wallkill (Section IX – Rockland), Cardozo (PSAL), and Chaminade (CHSAA).

Once again the team and its coaching staff did an outstanding job not only in making this time honored tournament happen, but also in maintaining its status as a high-quality event well respected by the visitors. 

At the 6 p.m. conclusion of Friday’s team practice in the Community Center, the wrestlers went up to Herricks High School to set up a truly professional arena in preparation for Saturday’s action. Their thanks go out to the high school custodial staff that made chairs, tables, risers, and other necessary items available, and especially to the grounds crew who transported three district wrestling mats to the high school as well as the mat that was so graciously loaned to us by Wheatley HS.

“Our Head Table crew (Fred Holle, Lillian Forziat, and Tom Rynne) did a great job in handling this complex multi-tournament event format flawlessly and in record time,” head coach Cliff Forziat noted. “Our wrestling parents, family and friends gave us much needed assistance on the four scoring tables without whose help this tournament does not happen.” Numerous Wrestling alumni were in evidence all day long helping out and giving spirited support to this year’s squad.

By the time that the echoes of the last whistles had faded from the arena eleven Highlanders had won place awards. Senior co-captain Andrew Farrell won the Varsity Elite Division 126-pound crown by pinning all three of his opponents including a 31-second pin over Wallkill’s Nick Sebesta who was All-Section IX last year. 

Farrell now has 81 career varsity victories, 47 by pins, which ranks him 19th and 10th among everyone who has ever wrestled for Herricks in these categories respectively. His strong performance earned for him the tournament’s Alwin Muller Most Outstanding Wrestler Award. 

Senior co-captain Mike Vespe won silver as runner up at 145 on the strength of a 4-1 day which included a pin victory. 

“Mike is working hard at developing a more brawling style,” Forziat noted. “Right now he is under the radar, but I would not be surprised to find him emerging as a significant factor to be reckoned with in February’s playoffs.”

Junior Solomon “NR” Aziz and senior Mike “BA” Lopez shared silver at 285. They both finished the day at 3-1 with two pins apiece. Junior Brandon Temperino took home third place bronze at 152 with a 3-1 day that included a pin victory. Jason Liarikos (jr-152) and John Vouzonis (so-152) both were 2-2, but fell just shy of placing. They both scored a pin victory.

Senior Corey Iuculano had two pins and finished in third place at 126. Iuculano has moved up a couple of weight classes since last year. 

“He is moving very well,” Forziat remarked. “He has very good natural athletic ability, and looks like he is ready to do some damage. We have a handful of young fellows, who are relatively unknown at this point, but who I believe are going to be in the hunt for post-season honors and Corey is one of them.” Junior Matt “Sticks” Esposito finished in fourth place in the Varsity Elite Division.

On the second-man mats the Highlanders placed four of five entries and all of them were finalists. 

Frosh Anthony Polo was 4-0 with four pins taking home gold at 113. He is relentless on the mat. Fellow freshman Andrew Chu had a 3-0 day with two pins for gold at 120. Matthew Mach (fr-106) was 4-1 with two pins and a major decision victory, and Krish “Batman” Shethia (so-120) was 3-1 with two pins and a major decision victory. Both young fellows were runners up in their respective divisions.

Forziat and his staff (Mike Miller, Leo Kouroupos, and Eric Goldberg) are eagerly looking forward to this year’s playoff possibilities. In the meantime the team opens its dual match season on December 18 against league opponent Westbury, and hosts its 22nd Annual TriFesta on Friday the 21st hosting Valley Stream North, Hempstead, Wheatley and Great Neck North in the Community Center’s Muller Arena.

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Hyram Landers

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