Connor Pearce was a fitting representative of a young Shoreham-Wading River High School wrestling team that consists mostly of freshmen and sophomores, with only three seniors. Yes, Pearce is young, but he has come such a long way.
As with all young wrestlers, Pearce has had to deal with new experiences. Such was the case Sunday when the freshman walked onto the mat before the large crowd at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood for the 79th annual Dr. L. Robert Fallot Section XI Championships. Pearce said he had never had that many eyeballs focused on him before.
“It was nerve-racking,” he said.
At the same time, the second-seeded Pearce believes all those fans in the stands drove him to his first Suffolk County championship.
Pearce pinned Port Jefferson junior Ricky D’Elia at 3 minutes, 40 seconds to claim the county Division II title at 113 pounds. In the process, he nailed down the tournament’s award for the most pins in the least amount of time with four in 10:23.
“My dad told me to wrestle like a champion … and that’s what I came out and tried to do,” said Pearce, who had lost by one point to the top-seeded D’Elia (72-21 career record) earlier this season.
As if to hammer home the point, Pearce’s teammates chanted in the stands: “He’s a freshman! He’s a freshman!”
A freshman with a world of talent and determination.
Pearce, a fifth-year wrestler in his second season on the team, has a 47-10 record in his brief career at Shoreham.
“He’s a machine,” coach Joe Condon said. “He went out there and just scored, scored, scored. He doesn’t stop wrestling, and that’s the key. That’s what we try to instill in all the kids.”
Pearce understands what his newly won label of county champion means. “People want to wrestle me now,” he said. “I’m not just a nobody.”
Neither is Shoreham senior John Carl Petretti, who won the 152-pound title by technical fall. That final was stopped at 4:20 when the methodical, top-seeded Petretti took a 17-0 lead over Mattituck/Greenport/Southold sophomore Ethan Schmidt.
For Petretti, it was a title that was literally years in the making. “It’s just a goal I’ve been dreaming about ever since I was in second grade,” he said.
Petretti (153-24 career record) said he felt relief when the referee raised his arm in triumph afterward.
Asked to assess Petretti’s day, Condon said: “A great day. Perfect. Through all three matches, [he] dominated the field, and he expects to win.”
When the Division II finalists paraded into the arena, four Shoreham wrestlers were among them. The final tally on the day for Shoreham was eight top-four finishers, four finalists and two champions.
Shoreham junior Chris Vedder had a rough time in the 106-pound final. Center Moriches freshman Jordan Titus took control, winning by technical fall at 4:54. The score was 17-1 when the bout was stopped.
In the 120 final, Shoreham junior Eddie Troyano was beaten, 5-1, by Mount Sinai sophomore Michael O’Brien. O’Brien has a 76-15 career record. Troyano is 91-22 for his career.
Shoreham’s Jake Jablonski (113 pounds), Cooper Cummings (138) and Peter Delise (145) came in third. Another Wildcat, Dylan Blanco (195), was fourth.
Mount Sinai captured the team title with 241 points. Shoreham was sixth with 185.
Condon pointed out that champions aren’t made overnight. “Nobody walks on the mat without paying the price all offseason, early mornings, late nights, sacrifice, the exercise,” he said. “Nobody sees all that goes into that.”
What’s the best thing about being a county champion?
“Just the legacy,” Petretti said. “I get to say that I’m a Suffolk County champion. I mean, Suffolk County is by far the hardest section in New York State so that comes with a lot of credit.”
Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River freshman Connor Pearce, top, pinned Port Jefferson junior Ricky D’Elia in the Section XI Division II final at 113 pounds. (Credit: Garret Meade)