SECTION XI DIVISION I CHAMPIONSHIPS
Ed Matyka had a lot to do, and time was running out. With half a minute remaining in his county final wrestling match, the Riverhead High School senior was trailing by 5-0.
How Matyka responded was, in a word, outstanding.
Matyka somehow recovered from that 5-0 deficit to force overtime and win the 120-pound title in triple overtime, 7-5, over Hauppauge sophomore Ben Tepperman. It may have been the most exciting bout on the card and it surely made an impact on the coaches who watched it Sunday night during the L. Robert “Doc” Fallot Section XI Division I Championships at the Hofstra University Physical Fitness Center.
It was the first county title for Matyka (41-4), who appeared to get stronger as the eight-minute match progressed. He came close to pinning Tepperman (44-4) three times in the third period of the thrilling bout.
Afterward, Matyka, a two-time league champion, hopped to the top of the podium during the awards ceremony before being handed a small plaque and the bracket sheet. Later he was presented with an even bigger prize, the tournament’s outstanding wrestler award, which he said caught him by surprise.
Matyka will take a 95-17 career record with him to Albany for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships on Feb. 27 and 28. County champions automatically qualify for the state tournament.
On a night when 15 Suffolk champions were crowned, none of them were from Shoreham-Wading River. The Wildcats sent three wrestlers into the finals, and they all came up on the short end of decisions.
Two Shoreham seniors, Chris Meloni and James Szymanski, lost in successive bouts. Ward Melville senior Nick Piccininni (39-2) romped over Meloni (41-3) by a 13-3 count at 126 pounds. Piccininni, a five-time county champion who is headed to Oklahoma State on a full scholarship, has a 222-5 career record. The loss brought Meloni’s career record to 126-22. Szymanski (41-3) ran into tough opposition in the 132-pound final, won by East Islip junior Jesse Dellavecchia, 5-0. Dellavecchia raised his record to 43-0 and 183-28 for his career. Szymanski’s career mark is 189-21.
The third Shoreham wrestler to take the mat, junior Jack Taddeo, didn’t have it any easier, not against Rocky Point senior Thomas Dutton, one of the toughest wrestlers around. Dutton (44-0) was in firm control throughout their match to take the 145-pound title with a 12-0 win that brought his impressive career record to 257-28. It is Dutton’s second county championship. Taddeo (43-3) has a 138-19 career record.
Kevin Meloni of Shoreham came in third place at 99 pounds and teammate Jack DelDuca finished sixth at 113.
Hauppauge won the team title with 167 1/2 points. Shoreham finished in sixth place with 93 points and Riverhead was 22nd among 44 teams with 41.
The Suffolk tournament was held concurrently with the Nassau County tournament at Hofstra, with one mat devoted for each county. At around 7:30 p.m., the finalists for both counties, the top 30 wrestlers on Long Island, paraded into the packed arena to the applause of fans, circling around the mats while Olympic-themed music played.