Despite weather-related challenges thrust upon the Long Island wrestling community both Nassau County and Suffolk County New York State Sectional Tournament organizers together with outstanding support from the Athletic Department at Hofstra University got both premiere Division I wrestling events up and running, and into the record books.
The weight class champions automatically qualify to participate in the New York State Intersectional Wrestling Championship Tournament in Albany Feb. 22 and 23. Second and third place finishers could possibly qualify for an at-large or alternate berth at the State Championships depending upon how their quality rating stands up against the remaining wrestlers who are in their weight class statewide.
Originally scheduled for Friday-Saturday, the snowfall forced Nassau to go on Sunday and finish up on Tuesday in an effort to accommodate the Suffolk County contingent many of whom were still paralyzed by snow-blocked streets.
The loss of practice time, crucial to these athletes who rely upon them in order to make weight, became a further complication. Nevertheless, the mat action was hot and heavy in Hofstra’s Mack Arena, and the cream rose to the top (for those of us who hail from the pre-homogenized milk era).
Two Highlanders fought their way to New York State Section VIII (Nassau) Division I Wrestling All-County status. Senior
Andrew Farrell pinned his first two opponents to reach the semifinals in the 120-pound weight class. There he ran into and was up-ended by Bellmore JFK Cougar Rob Person, seeded second in the tournament, a two-time Nassau County finalist and who was fifth in New York State last year. Farrell battled back through the grueling wrestleback rounds to win Division I All-County honors finishing up his high school scholastic wrestling career with his 22nd pin victory of this season and the 66th of his career, which establishes a new Herricks school record.
Farrell has 110 career varsity victories overall putting him in fifth place on the Herricks career leader boards in that category as well. Both of these achievements move him well among a host of very accomplished wrestlers who have donned Highlander blue and gray. He has won All-Conference honors as a freshman, sophomore, junior, and as a senior. He is a two-time Conference Champion and now has added All-County honors to his string of achievements. He has won 26 varsity tournament places, reached the finals 15 times and brought home 11 gold medals. (Not too shabby.)
Mike Vespe continues to improve at 145. He has worked this year to adopt a more physically brawling style, and the results have been impressive. He began the tournament in an unseeded position out in a pig-tail where he won an 11-0 major decision to advance into the preliminary round. There he squared off against the fifth seed winning a 5-2 decision, but Vespe lost a hard-fought decision to the fourth seed in the quarterfinals.
Thrust into the wrestlebacks he won his first match there by a 5-1 decision Sunday night to advance to the top eight, but his next match would be against Wantagh’s Steve Pambianchi early Tuesday morning.
With the match tied at one going into the final period, Vespe scored a takedown and a pin enabling him to reach the medal rounds where he advanced to the consolation match for third place against Bill Handelsman of Syosset.
With no score in the first period Handelsman took a 1-0 lead in the second period with an escape. Vespe chose bottom position in the final period where he secured a slick step-over two-point reversal off of an inside switch (a move that he had added just before the Qualifying Tournament a week earlier), and then he took an arm bar hold the atypical opposite way for a two-point nearfall and came away with a decision victory and third place Division I All-County honors.
Vespe finished up 6-1 in a grueling tournament bringing his varsity career win total to 85, good enough for 17th place on the Herricks career leader boards. He has 36 varsity victories this year, and he has placed in 17 tournaments over his career (eight of them this year, a championship, five seconds, and two thirds). He has won All-Conference honors three times, and has now added All-County honors to his list of accomplishments. He is an Alternate to the New York State Division I Wrestling Championships making him 18th in New York at 145.
Both Corey Iuculano (sr-126) and John Temperino (sr-152) added victories to the Highlanders’ wins column in the County Championships. Iuculano finished the season with 32 victories and Temperino had 29.