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Wrestling: Riverhead’s Hansel rolls to his first league crown

Charles Zaloom of Mattituck (black) defeated Justin Hansel of Riverhead (blue) in the 220 lbs finals of the North Fork Invitational which was held at Mattituck High School on Jan. 31, 2016.

Justin Hansel has something most wrestlers don’t have: a move named after him.

It’s called the Hansel roll, a sobriquet that emerged from Riverhead High School wrestling practices. When the Riverhead senior is on the bottom during a match, he holds an arm that his opponent has around his waist and then, fittingly, rolls.

Hansel said he doesn’t like to rely on it too much because he has heard that it doesn’t work often in college wrestling, which he intends to compete in.

It sure worked for him in the Suffolk County League III Tournament on Saturday at North Babylon High School, though. In fact, all five of his points could be attributed to the Hansel roll in a 5-2 victory over Tim Magosky of Smithtown West in the 220-pound final.

It was the first league championship for Hansel, who was a league runner-up in the weight class last year.

“It was such a rush,” Hansel, who is considering attending the College of Mount Saint Vincent or Rhode Island College, said in a phone interview. “It’s kind of hard to explain. When I won the match I was overwhelmed emotionally.”

Hansel’s father, mother and younger brother were in attendance as he used his strength to qualify for the Section XI Division I Championships for the third time in his career. The county tournament will be held Friday and Sunday at Hofstra University.

“He had an outstanding tournament,” Riverhead coach Tom Riccio said. “He’s deceivingly strong, but he looks smaller than all these other kids he wrestles. I don’t know why.”

Hansel’s second-place finish in the league last year was motivation enough for him this season. His record is 27-4. Three of those losses came to one wrestler, Josh King of East Hampton. His only other defeat came to Mattituck/Greenport/Southold’s Charles Zaloom in a North Fork Invitational final.

Altogether, eight Riverheaders qualified for the county tournament with top-four finishes in their weight class.

“That was outstanding,” said Riccio, whose team went 2-4 in League III dual meets. “I went into the tournament hoping that we would have five.”

Jose Blancarte (10-7), a senior, was pinned by Nazir Roe of Copiague at 3 minutes 20 seconds of the 285-pound final.

Another Riverhead senior, Kerry Thomas (26-8), a league champion last year, lost to Anthony Sparacio of North Babylon in the semifinals and finished third. Also coming in third were three of his teammates — sophomore Mark Matyka (28-9), senior Mitch Hobbs (28-8) and senior Jaeden Blom (18-15).

Two other Blue Waves, freshman Dan Ortez (15-11) and sophomore Chris Debose (9-19), finished fourth at 106 and 160 pounds, respectively.

It was a particularly noteworthy achievement for Debose, who had never wrestled a day in his life before this season. “He’s strong and he’s fast and he deserves everything that’s he’s got,” Riccio said. “And he doesn’t even know wrestling yet.”

Riverhead finished fifth in the team scoring with 109 points. North Babylon was first with 220.

As a league champion, Hansel received a gold medal, a bracket sheet and a champion’s T-shirt. And he has something else: a place in Riverhead wrestling history. His name will join those of the school’s other league champions in the utility room where the team practices.

He said, “Just having that title for the rest of my life is a pretty good accomplishment.”

KID WRESTLING IS BACK Kid wrestling is returning to Riverhead.

That was the good news Riverhead coach Tom Riccio delivered recently. Riverhead hasn’t had a kid wrestling program for six to eight years, Riccio said, and it has hurt the program.

The kid wrestling program will officially begin in November and will be overseen by Riccio and assistants Edwin Perry and Willie Walker. Wrestlers as young as age 7 may participate through sixth grade.

Riccio said it takes four years to develop a varsity wrestler. Without kid wrestling, he said, “wrestling in Riverhead wouldn’t last. Every school in the county has it except Riverhead.”

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Photo caption: Riverhead senior Justin Hansel used the so-called Hansel roll to pick up his first league championship. (Credit: Daniel De Mato, file)