As a freshman John Keck won the league title for Shoreham-Wading River at 103 pounds. When he returned to the mat a year later, he had grown into the 125 class, pitting him in one of the most challenging weights in the county.
At the league championship he lost a 1-0 decision in the consolation final, finishing in fourth place and just missing out on a return to the county tournament.
Now as a junior and in his third year as a starter for the Wildcats, Keck has continued to grow, now wrestling either 145 or 152, both of which again feature an arduous road to the counties. But it’s one Keck is prepared to tackle as he continues building on a superb start to the season, which most recently included an 11-2 major decision Wednesday against Miller Place in a 48-30 dual meet victory for Shoreham.
Keck wrestled 152, although he’s split his matches this season with 145, against Miller Place senior Will Coveney. After a 2-0 first period, he turned it on in the second to take control and improve his overall record to 24-3.
“He’s a tireless worker,” said Shoreham coach Joe Condon. “He’s in great shape. He lifted weights and he’s real dedicated.”
Condon said Keck can wrestle either 145 or 152 and he’ll determine which weight he wants to wrestle when the league tournament draws closer. He’s currently ranked sixth in the county at 145. (152 would presumably give him an easier path in League VI as Rocky Point’s Matt Ross and Westhampton’s Zach Bass are both at 145).
Two of Keck’s losses came last weekend at the Eastern States Tournament against former state champions. His other came in a dual meet against Ross.
The Wildcats won 10 bouts against the Panthers, three via forfeit, as they improved to 2-3 in League VI. The Panthers won all five of their bouts by pin.
For both teams, with the possibility of winning the league dual meet title gone, the focus has slowly begun shifting toward the league championships Feb. 5. Each team saw its top wrestlers come away victorious at Miller Place High School Wednesday.
For the Wildcats, buoyed with the cushion of 18 points from forfeits, they were still able pick up wins and bonus points from some wrestlers aside from their top group.
“We won the close, hard-fought decisions,” Condon said. “Everyone gets greedy, they want more points, but you still have to wrestle out of tough positions and compete. It’s a good start.”
The Wildcats recorded a pair of pins at 145 and 171. Joe Bennett pinned Kenny Keenan in 2 minutes, 30 seconds at 145 and Joe Longo took down Kevin Talento in 2:57 at 171.
“Joe had a huge pin for us and he’s a first-year starter,” Condon said. “To get pins in league matches is big.”
Zak Mullen, a third-place league finisher from a year ago, won a 12-3 major decision at 135. James Szymanski won a 16-3 major decision at 96 to close out the match.
The Wildcats also got a 4-2 overtime win from Mike Sanders at 189 and a 2-0 decision from Tom Valentine at 140.
“We’d like to get as many all-league place-winners and champions as we can and some of these kids deserve it,” Condon said. “They really sacrificed and made a commitment to the whole team.”
Shoreham’s top-ranked wrestler, T.J. Fabian, did not wrestle as the Panthers forfeited his 112 weight.
Miller Place opened the dual meet with three straight pins after forfeiting the first two weights to take an 18-12 lead. The Panthers’ top three of John Steiger (125), Chris Aschauer (130) and Ryan Kelly (215) all pinned their opponent in under three minutes.
Miller Place coach Dom LoRe has high expectations for each wrestler.
“The three of them have been absolutely tremendous for us,” he said. “I’d like to see all three of them in the league finals. I think all three of them have a legitimate shot to win the league. They got to be on. League VI is no joke.”
Aschauer improved to 17-5 on the season after a rough start in December. “He’s been able to turn it on,” LoRe said.” Steiger is 20-2 and Kelly is 20-3.
LoRe said Aschauer has been the most improved wrestler from the beginning of the season.
“He’s made some adjustments mentally and physically just to be able to do as well as he’s done,” LoRe said.
The Panthers also got pins from Ryan Brindley at 119 and Eric DiCroce at 160.
Both teams will keep busy the next few weeks leading into the league championship. Miller Place will wrestle in the Mattituck Tournament Saturday and Shoreham will head to the Cold Spring Harbor Tournament.