SECTION XI CHAMPIONSHIPS
The final seconds ticked away in the third period and Shoreham-Wading River senior Mike Neidhart assumed his season and wrestling career were over. He was trailing 1-0 in his consolation final at 170 pounds, desperately trying to make a move on his opponent.
What Neidhart didn’t see was the referee raise his arm and signal a stall point. With three seconds left in the match, Neidhart had evened the score and sent the match into overtime.
“[The referee] didn’t verbally yell, he just held up the finger,” said Shoreham coach Joe Condon.
In the extra period, Neidhart quickly went to work, securing a takedown and prevailing 3-1 to finish fifth in his weight class at the Section XI Championships at Hofstra University Sunday.
“It was really exciting,” Neidhart said. “I was shocked and then took him down. It felt good to win my last match in high school. Last match of my life.”
“He deserved it,” Condon added.
Neidhart was one of four Shoreham wrestlers to finish on the podium. Senior Dominic Pirraglia was third at 182, junior James Szymanski was third at 120 and sophomore Jack Taddeo was fourth at 132. Riverhead sophomore Ed Matyka placed fifth at 113 as he overcame a third-period deficit to pin his opponent in the consolation final.
Finishing on the podium was exactly where Neidhart wanted to be coming into this season.
“We used to always tell him — you’re going to place in the county tournament, you can be a league champ,” Condon said. “You just got to work and that’s what he did.”
It was the first time Neidhart made it into the county tournament.
The Wildcats had a chance to send three wrestlers into the finals Sunday, but Szymanski, Taddeo and Pirraglia all fell in the semifinals to drop into the wrestlebacks. Szymanski suffered the toughest defeat, losing to East Islip’s Jesse Dellavecchia, a wrestler whom he had defeated earlier this season. Szymanski lost 6-1 after getting turned twice late in the third period.
He bounced back to win his next two wrestlebacks, and capped the tournament with a 5-3 win over Longwood’s Brett Brice.
“Like a competitor he came back and wrestled tough,” Condon said. “He beat really solid kids both matches, where many guys give up and say ‘I can’t get my ultimate goal.’ He fought back and it shows the character a kid like Szymanski has and Dominic.”
The win keeps his hopes alive of earning an at-large bid to the state tournament. His 46-3 record would certainly bode well to that happening, but it’s no guarantee. Last year, T.J. Fabian placed third at the county tournament, earned an at-large bid and dominating the state tournament to win first place. But Fabian had placed at the state meet the previous year, which helped him gain more points in the system that determines which four wrestlers from across the state earn the wild card spot.
Pirraglia is also hopeful he can earn at at-large bid. Known for his ability to pin opponents, Pirraglia was put to his back for the first time this season in a strange reversal of fortune in his semifinal match. In his consolation final, he ended with a pin of his own, though.
“It was different,” Pirraglia said of getting pinned. “I didn’t like it.”
Pirraglia defeated Ronnie King of Islip to win third.
Taddeo won his first two matches at 132 Friday before falling Sunday morning to top-seeded Chris Mauriello by technical fall. He won his first wrestleback before falling 7-0 to Sean O’Hagan of Sachem North.
“My goal was to place top four in the beginning of the year,” Taddeo said. “So I was able to accomplish my goal.”
While the Wildcats won’t crown any county champions this year, the four all-county wrestlers matches their most in a season since 2007.
It’s no great surprise that the Wildcats — who were in the top 10 of the team standings heading into Sunday night’s finals — could put four wrestlers on the podium. The depth on the team led the Wildcats to a 26-1 dual meet record, which set a school record for dual meet wins in a season. Their only loss came against John Glenn, the team that was in the lead at the county tournament.
“For the natural ability and talent level we have, I think these guys squeezed every ounce that they could out of what they had,” Condon said. “That’s all I could ask for.”