Inevitably, every season, at least one weight class in the Section XI wrestling championship is so brutally competitive that to emerge on top is practically akin to placing at the state tournament.
Consider that weight this year the 126-pound class.
When Shoreham-Wading River senior T.J. Fabian began his quarterfinal match Tuesday night at Hofstra University, he found himself pitted against a defending county champion in Corey Jamison of Huntington.
No, there was no easy route to the finals.
Undefeated and the top-ranked wrestler in the weight, Fabian suffered a disappointing 4-3 loss to Jamison, ending his bid to win his first county championship.
“Setbacks don’t define what he does,” said Shoreham coach Joe Condon.
The loss dropped Fabian (45-1) into the wrestlebacks, where he bounced back to win two matches Tuesday, guaranteeing himself an all-county finish. He’ll return to the mat Wednesday afternoon at Walt Whitman High School needing to win two matches to take third place.
If he does, the odds are in his favor to earn a wild card spot to the state championship for the second straight year. He was fourth in New York last year as a wild card.
“T.J. knew what he had to do,” Condon said. “He prepared well. He’s determined to come back and wrestle his best.”
Condon said the good news is that Fabian still controls his own destiny.
“His attitude is good,” Condon said. “He wants to do the best he can. He doesn’t give up.”
In a testament to how tough the weight class is, Jamison lost in the semifinals after beating Fabian. He lost 3-1 to Jimmy Leach of Eastport-South Manor. In the other semifinal, former state champion Mark West of Hauppauge won 10-0 against Brad Wade of Islip.
Fabian could end up wrestling Jamison again in the consolation final.
Two other Wildcat wrestlers guarantee themselves spots on the podium. Sophomore James Szymanski reached the semifinals at 106 before falling 8-4 to Steven Lee of West Babylon. Lee was second in the county last year and also beat Szymanski en route to the finals.
Szymanski recorded his 100th win Tuesday. He opened the tournament win a win over Brendan Elroumy of Riverhead.
Szymanski will need to win one match to wrestle for third place Wednesday.
“He’s had a great tournament so far,” Condon said.
At 182, Dom Pirraglia lost in the semifinals to Dan Fiorvanti of Commack by fall in 4 minutes 9 seconds.
Condon said he thought Pirraglia had a great chance of reaching the podium, even if he wasn’t on a lot of people’s radars.
“A lot of wrestling people don’t know who he is,” Condon said. “He peaked at the right time. He’s a very strong wrestler, very dedicated.”
Jack Taddeo lost his opening match at 120. At 195, Max Goldfarb fought through a sprained ankle to wrestle in the tournament. He lost his opening match in overtime.
“The experience is going to help those two guys,” Condon said.
The snowstorm that blanketed Long Island Friday into Saturday forced the tournament to be pushed back. The first three rounds were all contested on the same day. Normally, the semifinals start in the morning of the second day.
“They did the best they could,” Condon said.