STONY BROOK — Losing in a sectional final is a bitter pill to swallow for a high school wrestler. To come so far and get so close to winning a sectional title — as well as a place in the state tournament that comes with it — and then only to be disappointed in the end isn’t easy.
Tomasz Filipkowski and Brandon Lake know the feeling only too well. The two Mattituck/Greenport wrestlers were losing finalists in last year’s Section XI Championships. “That was terrible,” recalled Filipkowski.
Having experienced that pain, the two Tuckers were determined to produce a more favorable outcome when they returned to that sectional stage on Monday.
Mattituck/Greenport sent three Tuckers — Filipkowski and Lake included — to the Division II finals of the Section XI Championships on Monday at Stony Brook University and got a pretty good return. All three of them won county titles, and one of them, Filipkowski, was selected as the champion of champions in a vote by the finalists.
“I just wanted to go out there and wrestle my best because I knew if I wrestled my best, then I should beat him,” said Filipkowski, referring to his opponent in the 160-pound final, Dylan Flynn of Hampton Bays. It was Flynn who defeated Filipkowski in last year’s final. But a motivated Filipkowski (28-2) recorded a 4-3 triumph over him on Monday, defeating the senior for the second time this season.
Also reaching the top of the podium were Filipkowski’s teammates Jeff Strider (30-6) and Lake (30-6), the respective champions at 145 and 189 pounds. It is the first county title for all three Tuckers.
Strider was a 3-0 winner over Dom Evangelista of Port Jefferson in their title bout, and Lake was a 3-1 winner over another Port Jefferson wrestler, John Proios, in their final.
“I don’t know what to say,” Lake said. “It was just a great experience.”
“Really, I did not expect it at all,” he continued. “It’s just how it turned out. Just hard work and effort, and here I am.”
Strider said: “This is what I’ve been working for. … This is what I was waiting for. I just pictured myself there up on top of the podium.”
Lake and Strider were both the top seeds in their weight class, and Filipkowski was a No. 2 seed. Mattituck/Greenport Coach Cory Dolson sounded overjoyed with how they did.
“I think it’s a big deal for all of them,” he said. “I’m super excited. I don’t think it could have happened to three better kids.”
Dolson could also take delight in how his team performed in the two-day tournament, which started on Sunday. Mattituck/Greenport sent eight wrestlers into the semifinals and 11 Tuckers earned all-county status. The team finished third in the Division II team standings with 178 points, behind Bayport-Blue Point (334.5) and Center Moriches (186).
“Unbelievable,” Dolson said. “It’s a testament to how hard the guys work, it really is.”
Filipkowski had an impressive tournament, winning all four of the matches he wrestled. To reach the final, he pinned Tyler Jacinth of Babylon in 40 seconds, registered a technical fall against Joe Booker of Port Jefferson with a 16-1 score, and posted a 13-9 decision over Brian Leskamp of Babylon in the semifinals.
“It’s pretty awesome,” said Filipkowski.
Filipkowski earned the right to compete in the state meet that will be held Feb. 25 and 26 at the Times Union Center in Albany. He will have some familiar company in Strider and Lake.
Strider, who had never placed among the top six in the sectional tournament before, went into the final with the confidence of knowing he had beaten Evangelista, 9-3, earlier in the season. “I was feeling good about it,” he said.
Lake had some momentum of his own. He had pinned his first two opponents in the tournament, Frank Noviello of Smithtown Christian and Brett Ruggiero of Port Jefferson, before scoring an 8-2 decision over Ryan Lewis of Center Moriches in the semifinals.
“Anyone can win on any [given] day,” Lake said. “It all depends on who’s trying the hardest.”
He added: “This is a really hard tournament. Bayport’s a quality team, Center Moriches, they’re all great teams, and when you come out here, it’s a battle. It really is.”
A number of other Tuckers also fared well. Ryan Bergen (112 pounds), Andres Aldaz (130) and Andre Vega (140) fought their way through the wrestlebacks for third-place finishes. Wilson Quizphi (103), Brian Pelan (119), Rich Koch (135), David Martinez (152) and Jorge Perez (215) were fourth.
Riverhead did not have any semifinalists or top-six finishers in the Division I competition. In fact, the only two Blue Waves who returned to Stony Brook on Monday for the wrestlebacks were Gabe Rice (27-7) at 140 pounds and Mario Carrera (24-6) at 160.
“The tournament’s awesome and the caliber is awesome,” Riverhead Coach Wade “Rocky” Davey said. “We just weren’t up to the task.”
For three Tuckers who rose to the occasion, though, the wrestling season is not over.
“And that’s awesome,” Dolson said. “The more wrestling, the better.”