Advance to the semifinals.
That is the mission for wrestlers on Day 1 of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships. It’s easier said than done.
Six of the seven Tuckers in the tournament reached the Division II quarterfinals on Friday at Times Union Center in Albany, and two of them, junior Tanner Zagarino and sophomore Jack Bokina, earned the right to advance to Saturday’s semifinals. Both are seeded second in their weight class. It is the first time the Tuckers have had two semifinalists at the state level.
“So far, so good, I think,” Mattituck/Greenport/Southold coach Cory Dolson said. “We have two in the semis, so that’s good. Tanner and Jack, they’re coming here to win the tournament.”
The Tuckers have never produced a state champion. Louis Troisi went further than any Tucker had gone before when he finished third in 2007.
Zagarino (41-1) conserved energy, wrestling for only 48 seconds in his two bouts on Saturday. In his first-round match at 195 pounds, Zagarino wasted no time in pinning Gouverneur junior Kyle Elliot in 25 seconds. He needed two seconds less in the quarterfinals, making quick work of Nanuet junior Connor Breit with another pin. Zagarino went 0-2 in last year’s state tournament.
“It wasn’t easy, but I didn’t think I would get through it as fast as I did,” said Zagarino, who called the wrestlers in the state tournament “the best of the best.”
Zagarino will face Sandy Creek sophomore Joe Benedict in the semifinals.
The state tournament is an eight-ring, er, eight-mat circus, with bouts going on simultaneously. Two Tuckers — and twin brothers, at that — found themselves wrestling their quarterfinals at the same time on adjoining mats, albeit with different results. Jack Bokina (41-3), a sophomore making his third appearance in the state tournament, scored a 3-1 decision over Maple Grove junior A.J. Putt at 113 pounds. That lands Bokina a place in the semifinals against Wayne junior Matt Caccamise.
“It takes a lot of pressure off right away to know that now I’m in the semis already,” said Bokina, who took fourth in the state last year.
Meanwhile, his brother Luke Bokina wasn’t as fortunate, dropping an 8-3 loss to Schuylerville sophomore Orion Anderson at 106.
Other Tuckers lost quarterfinals in a variety of ways, but perhaps none was more heartbreaking than James Hoeg’s crushing defeat to Lyle Grant of Alden at 170 pounds. The bout was evidence that every second counts in wrestling. Hoeg was leading, 4-3, before a takedown by Grant with three seconds left brought the senior a 5-4 triumph. Afterward, Hoeg, the No. 2 seed, looked disconsolate.
“He’s winning for 5 minutes and 57 seconds, and he lost,” said Dolson. The coach added: “That one’s going to hurt. It’s going to sting for a while, but you got to have a short memory here because he’s going to wrestle in about an hour [in the consolation round]. He’s got to be ready to go.”
Tuckers seniors Tim Schmidt and Charles Zaloom suffered quarterfinal defeats at 182 and 220 pounds, respectively. Schmidt was trounced by Watkins Glen junior Ian Chedzoy, 10-1, and Zaloom was beaten by General Brown senior Ricardo Dawkins, 10-5.
Through the quarterfinals, Mattituck/Greenport/Southold was second in Division II team scoring with 30 points, five behind Adirondack. The Tuckers have never won a state team title.
Two Shoreham-Wading River seniors, Jack Taddeo and Kevin Meloni, received wild-card berths to gain entry into the tournament. Taddeo lost by fall to Eastport/South Manor senior John Busiello at 5:12 of the Division I 145-pound quarterfinal. In the first round, Taddeo pinned Canton junior Angus Johnson at 1:50.
Meloni, after dropping his first bout, 9-3, to East Ramapo senior Trey Wardlaw, went on to win two consolation bouts at 106. He pinned Liverpool freshman Christian Bradshaw at 2:24 and was a 3-1 overtime winner over Minisink Valley freshman Tyler Lynch.
Photo caption: Mattituck/Greenport/Southold junior Tanner Zagarino, left, has earned a place in Saturday’s state semifinals. (Credit: Bob Liepa)