The Shoreham-Wading River High School gym was abuzz with electricity, the sort that comes with the excitement of watching two powerful wrestling teams — perhaps Suffolk County’s two best Division II teams — clash. And one of them just happened to be two-time defending state champion Mount Sinai.
What was SWR’s approach?
“We just looked at it as just another team,” SWR’s Dan Dacos said. “We’ve faced better teams before.”
Maybe so, but Mount Sinai clearly isn’t “just” another team. SWR seems to have closed the gap between itself and Mount Sinai, but Mount Sinai is still Mount Sinai — in other words, a formidable force.
Mount Sinai’s quality showed through. The Mustangs opened with a 15-0 lead, won 10 of the 15 bouts and prevailed, 42-27, in the League IV match.
There had been speculation that perhaps SWR (16-4, 2-1) might be able to take down Mount Sinai (10-4, 2-0). The Wildcats are ranked sixth among the state’s D-II teams by the New York State Sportswriters Association; Mount Sinai is 11th.
But that is bound to change after Wednesday’s meeting.
“It’s a big one,” SWR coach Joe Condon before the proceedings, which including a prematch ceremony honoring his five seniors — Chris Anderson, Dylan Anderson, Connor DeLumen, Denis Lane and Dacos.
“A lot of pressure,” said Dacos, a 6-5 victor over Phil Johnson at 152 pounds. “There was pressure, but it was like good nerves, you know. It’s your last home match against the best team in the state.”
The 6-foot-6 DeLumen made the most of it. He was dominant in a 10-0 blanking of Gianluca Ferrara at 220 pounds.
“It was definitely a rewarding night for myself because it’s my last time wrestling on this mat and I’m not wrestling in college, either, so definitely a night to remember,” said DeLumen.
Craig Jablonski, one of three Wildcats to wrestle up a weight class because of illnesses, turned in an impressive win at 113 pounds by technical fall (16-0) over Shawn Wells, bringing the sophomore’s season record to 26-2.
“I came in a lot stronger this year, going to the gym offseason,” Jablonski said. “I came in with a better mentality that I wanted to do this, I wanted to win and I feel a big difference in my wrestling.”
His older brother, Jake Jablonski, was sharp, too. Wrestling at 132, the junior pinned Brendan Goodrich at 1 minute and 14 seconds.
Chris Colon, bumped up a weight class to 106, came through with a 6-0 win over Derek Menechino.
Tristan Petretti, moved up to 126, lost a close one, 6-4, to Luca Martinis in overtime.
SWR also picked up a second-period pin from Connor Pearce against Jack Tyrrell at 120.
Mount Sinai earned pins by Brayden Fahrbach (against Tommy Palumbo at 99), Tristan Nardi (against Dylan Anderson at 160), Matt Campo (against Aiden Franks at 170), Joe Goodrich (against Anthony Giordano at 182) and Alex Day (against Dylan Blanco at 285).
“They’re all around solid,” Dacos said of the Mustangs. “They haven’t got many weak points.”
The other bouts that went Mount Sinai’s way were Michael O’Brien’s 14-2 defeat of Chris Anderson at 138, Ryan Shanian’s 6-0 win over Sean Miller at 145 and Adham Shata’s 9-2 decision over Jake Ekert at 195.
“I think they thought it would be easier for them, and we gave them a fight, but it didn’t go as planned,” said Craig Jablonski.
Condon said: “Tonight, I think, we were a little flat at times. We didn’t a few calls. We didn’t execute a couple of things we thought we could do in the lineup, but that’s part of it. It’s a learning process and we got to go back to fix some of the things we need to improve on.”
In addition to wrestling excellence, the teams share a coaching connection. Mount Sinai coach Matt Armstrong and Condon competed together during their wrestling days, and Mount Sinai assistant coach Eric Strovink was the best man at Condon’s wedding.
It’s possible the two teams could meet again in the playoffs.
“I want the kids to focus and stay healthy and do the best they can because it’s not over,” Condon said. “This is just a little stumble, but it’s what you do at the end. It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish the season. We only have a month left, so hopefully they peak at the right time.”