LEAGUE VI CHAMPIONSHIPS
For many, it’s the culmination of months, if not years, of hard work. All the extra workouts, all the year-round training, all the commitment, all the dedication leads to a league tournament. And a league tournament is not exactly a walk in the park, either. It’s full of potential pratfalls along the way. It is the uncommon wrestler who survives navigating that minefield to emerge as a champion.
To do it once is special. To do it four times, well, that’s four times as special.
T. J. Fabian is among the few who know what that feels like.
Fabian won a fourth league title in the Suffolk County League VI Championships on Saturday night, becoming the fifth wrestler in the history of Shoreham-Wading River’s program to do so, according to Wildcats coach Joe Condon.
“I’m so happy,” said Fabian, Shoreham-Wading River’s only senior.
Fabian blew through the opposition. After winning his first two bouts in the tournament at Westhampton Beach High School on pins that totaled 2 minutes 2 seconds, Fabian didn’t waste any time in the 126-pound final, pinning Westhampton Beach senior Nick Strand in 26 seconds.
“I was hoping for a first-period pin to get this over with,” said Fabian, whose fastest pin this year came in 10 seconds.
The victory brought Fabian’s record to 42-0 for the season and 187-23 for his career. Strand is 31-11 this season.
Condon knows how rare an achievement it is for a wrestler to win four league titles.
“You have to stay injury-free,” he said. “You have to have a little luck with that, and you have to constantly be improving because everybody else is always trying to improve as well. He truly loves the sport. He loves to wrestle. He’s not afraid to work hard every single day. He deserves this.”
Fabian, who hasn’t selected the college he will wrestle for next season, is the top-ranked wrestler for his weight class in the state. “A lot of schools have been calling,” Condon said. “He hasn’t decided yet. It’s a big decision.”
Fabian was among four Wildcats who advanced to the league finals. Two others, freshman Jack Taddeo and junior Dom Pirraglia, picked up their first league titles.
With fans chanting his name, Taddeo (34-6) was in control of his final at 120 pounds, registering a 7-0 decision over Mount Sinai freshman Lionel Paul (19-1). Afterward, Taddeo received hugs and congratulations from coaches and teammates.
“This was my goal this year, and I achieved it,” Taddeo said. “I feel like I executed all my moves and everything I wanted to do.”
Pirraglia (31-4), who was a league runner-up last year, took the 182-pound title by virtue of an 8-7 victory over Rocky Point senior Zeki Yazak (30-5). It was the first tournament title of any kind that Pirraglia has ever won.
“I walked into the [wrestling] room this year not wanting anything less than the league championship,” Pirraglia said. “I walked out there on the mat just wanting to win. I was expecting nothing less than first place.”
Condon said that immediately after the match, Pirraglia was so exhausted that “he couldn’t even talk because he put everything he had into it. That’s exactly what we want.”
The first Shoreham-Wading River wrestler to compete in Saturday night’s finals, sophomore James Szymanski, was leading his opponent at 106 pounds, Westhampton Beach senior Alex Tanzman, for most of the contest. But Tanzman executed a pivotal reversal and pinned Szymanski at 5:29. Tanzman (28-1) was selected the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler.
Szymanski (28-4) had also lost in last year’s league final to Tanzman, who holds a 6-0 career record against the Shoreham-Wading River wrestler.
“It’s tough,” said Szymanski, who lost on Long Island for only the second time this season. “I was hoping to get the championship here today.”
Rocky Point blew out the competition in the team scoring, collecting 463 1/2 points. Westhampton Beach was far behind in second place with 282. Shoreham-Wading River finished fourth with 182 1/2.
Shoreham-Wading River’s four league finalists will join teammate Max Goldfarb, who finished third at 195 pounds, in the Section XI Championships next week.
“These kids really trained hard,” Condon said. “I don’t know of a group of kids anywhere that works harder than the kids on our team. They don’t leave anything on the mat.”
So, what does it take to be a league champion?
Now that he has achieved it, Taddeo could provide an answer to that question.
“Hard work and dedication,” he said. “You have to wrestle all year long if you want to be successful in this sport. It’s just that competitive.”