Riverhead coach Wade “Rocky” Davey isn’t in the business of making predictions just yet. But it wouldn’t be far-fetched to see the Blue Waves as a team capable of producing multiple all-county wrestlers this season.
It’s been five years since Riverhead had more than one all-county wrestler, defined as a top-six finish in the county tournament.
Last season, the Blue Waves crowned a league champion in Ed Matyka, who went on to place fifth at the county tournament while wrestling 113 pounds. Matyka is part of a core of wrestlers who have been working their way up who could be in for a breakout this year.
“That’s what we’re hoping for,” Davey said.
The Blue Waves made a strong first impression Saturday, kicking the season off with a third-place finish at the Sprig Gardner Tournament at East Hampton High School. The Blue Waves tallied 191 points to finish behind Hauppauge (247.5) and Ward Melville (230).
“It was a pretty good start and we were missing a couple kids because of SATs,” Davey said.
The Blue Waves had 18 wrestlers in the top six of the tournament and six reached the finals.
Kerry Thomas, wrestling 113, defeated teammate Chris Flood in the finals with a 5-4 decision. Thomas was wrestling up a weight and will soon come down to 106, Davey said.
“That in effect makes our team a lot stronger,” Davey said.
Flood was a league finalist last year at 106. Thomas was a fourth-place finisher in the league last year. Both wrestlers could break through this year to become all-county.
Another wrestler in that mix is Cody Weiss, who was the 126 champion Saturday. Weiss placed third in the league tournament last year, one of four returning wrestlers who reached the county tournament last year.
Thomas, Flood, Matyka and Weiss give the Blue Waves a formidable quartet in the lower weights.
On Saturday, Matyka lost in the 120 finals to Hauppauge’s Ben Tepperman, 9-4. It was an early season showdown between the top two ranked wrestlers in the county. Tepperman, a sophomore, is ranked first with Matyka, a senior, second.
“It’s a learning experience,” Davey said of Matyka’s loss. “Hopefully that’s what it becomes. We can make adjustments and turn a loss into a win.”
The match turned when Matyka tried to put Tepperman to his back, only to end up on his own back. It was a five-point swing in the match that proved to be the difference.
“The kid really came after [Matyka] and kind of took the match away from him by coming after him,” Davey said.
Senior Raheem Brown is another wrestler who could break through as an all-county finisher this season. He’s ranked fifth at 182 in the county to start the season. He didn’t wrestle Saturday, though, because of the testing.
An early season surprise for the Blue Waves has been Mitch Hobbs at 160. He reached the finals of Saturday’s tournament, the first time he’s ever made it to the finals of a tournament, Davey said. Hobbs ran into one of the top wrestlers in the state in the finals, Chris Mauriello of Hauppauge, and lost 18-2.
“He had a nice day,” Davey said.
At 220, Justin Hansel reached the finals and lost 13-11 to Alex Donnarumma of Hauppauge. Hansel, a junior, was working Donnarumma to his back as the match ended, so it could have been a different finish with a few more seconds, Davey said.
The Blue Waves open the league dual meet season Wednesday at home against Copiague. The Blue Waves will see some new faces in the league this year, which could be welcome news. The Blue Waves won’t be facing Hauppauge, East Islip and Deer Park like they did last year in League IV. Instead, they’ll face Smithtown West, West Islip and Smithtown East in League III. Smithtown East is the defending tournament champion in League III.
“Like everybody, we’re not solid throughout but we’re pretty good,” Davey said.