Mark Matyka was following in his brother’s footsteps when he stepped onto the mat for the 99-pound Division I wrestling final in the Section XI Dr. L. Robert “Doc” Fallot Memorial Championships in February. Two years earlier, his older brother, Ed, had pulled off a dramatic comeback in the finals of the same tournament to win a county championship.
In his junior season, Mark’s goal was also to win a county title, but he came up short in the finals, when he lost 11-3 in a championship bout against Eastport-South Manor’s Christian Gannone.
“He was awesome this season,” Riverhead coach Tom Riccio said of him after the county finals match.
As it turned out, Matyka’s season was far from over.
He earned a wild card bid into the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships in Albany. Wrestling for the first time at the state tournament, Matyka faced a tough matchup in the opening round, losing to the No. 6 seed 12-4. It put him in a must-win situation for the remainder of the tournament with his back against the wall.
He bounced back on the first day of the tournament to win two consolation matches, which allowed him to advance into the second day of the tournament.
His season ultimately came to an end the next morning when he finished one win shy of earning a spot on the podium as an all-state, top-six finisher.
Matyka concluded his season with a 38-10 record and improved to 82-18 on his career. Now, beginning his senior season, he’s the top-ranked wrestler in the county at his weight of 106.
Photo credit: Robert O’Rourk