The match may have been a consolation final, a battle for third place, but the stakes couldn’t have been any higher.
Shoreham-Wading River senior T. J. Fabian knew what was on the line when he squared off against Huntington’s Corey Jamison last Wednesday at Walt Whitman High School. His goal of a county title had been cut short earlier in the tournament by Jamison, but a larger goal remained on the horizon.
A third-place finish would lock Fabian into the at-large bid to the New York State Championship beginning Friday in Albany. A loss likely meant the end of the season.
“I think the entire fan base there were all watching that one match,” said Shoreham coach Joe Condon. “There was a lot of noise. It was so loud you could barely hear the referees.”
After losing to Jamison in the quarterfinals, Fabian returned the favor with a 2-0 victory that not only earned him a spot in the state championships, but propelled him to the No. 1 seed in the 126-pound bracket.
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Two days after the win, Fabian (47-1) officially got word that he would be headed to Albany as a wild card for the second straight season as he looks to improve on his fourth-place finish last year.
Against Jamison, who lost in the semifinals to fall into the wrestlebacks, Fabian scored on a second-period reversal for the only points of the match. “When he lost in the quarters, he made the decision that he had no options,” Condon said. “He had to take third place. He has a lot of resolve and he was determined.”
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A four-time league champion, Fabian will open the state tournament against John McHugh, a junior from Columbia (Section II). Condon said they are familiar with McHugh from many of the other tournaments Fabian has competed in. A quarterfinal matchup would pit Fabian against either Nick Toutant of Indian River (Section III) or Frankie Gissendanner of Penfield (Section V) if he can advance.
“[Fabian’s] going to be ready,” Condon said. “I think he’s going to have a good chance to get that state title. And we’re really hoping, because he’s deserved it.”
Fabian will be aiming to become the fourth wrestler in Shoreham history to win a state championship. Wildcats have crowned state champions eight times, led by Jesse Jantzen’s four titles from 1997-2000. Corey Jantzen won in 2006 and ’07 and Steven Keith won in ’07 and ’09.
To prepare for the state tournament, Fabian has trained this week with other Section XI wrestlers at Sachem East High School. The county championship team serves as the host gym for all the wrestlers in the week leading up to the states.
“A lot of these guys have trained together for years,” Condon said. “Some of the guys were T. J.’s opponents in other years. He’s wrestling with kids who have different styles, different body types and strengths and weaknesses. He’s getting good prep time.”
Before wrestling Jamison in the consolation final, Fabian got a forfeit victory over Brad Wade of Islip, who couldn’t wrestle due to injury. Condon said Fabian came out aggressive in his match against Jamison, who is a defensive-style wrestler.
“He was attacking the entire time,” Condon said. “There was never a threat of him losing. He controlled the match from start to finish. He was in shooting on him and attacking.”
It shows just how tough the 126-pound weight class is this season in Suffolk County that Jamison, the only wrestler to beat Fabian, was left out of the state tournament.
Mark West of Hauppauge, the county champion at 126, would be in line to wrestle Fabian in the semifinals if both wrestlers win their first two matches. Jimmy Leach of Eastport/South Manor finished second in the county but did not receive a wild-card spot.
“It’s probably the deepest weight in the state,” Condon said.
Waiting on the other side of the bracket as the No. 2 seed is the defending state champion, Dylan Realbuto of Somers (Section I).
“Winning New York State is so difficult,” Condon said. “Very few kids even come close.”