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Wrestling: Two SWR wrestlers surpass century mark

Pain is part of the game.

Anyone who knows wrestling knows that. Still, there is pain, and then there is excruciating pain.

The tale can now be told. It has been disclosed that Craig Jablonski wrestled last season — in its compressed entirety — with three broken ribs. That’s no misprint.

Even more remarkable, he managed to put up a 4-2 record in that shortened season for Shoreham-Wading River, which went 9-0 and won the Suffolk County dual-meet championship.

Coach Joe Condon called Jablonski one of SWR’s unsung heroes. “We couldn’t have won the county title if he wasn’t in the lineup,” he said. “It would have been very difficult.”

“He’s got guts,” said Condon.

As for Jablonski’s thoughts about what he went through … eh, nothing special.

“I wouldn’t consider it that remarkable, no,” he said. “I knew it was that important for our team to win and I just went out there and wrestled. I don’t think I did anything special.”

Speaking of special, though, consider this: All that pain led to some gain. Jablonski, wrestling at 138 pounds, picked up his 100th career win in a 72-6 defeat of Hampton Bays last Wednesday. Then, on Saturday, fellow senior, teammate, training partner and longtime friend Tristan Petretti earned his 100th career victory in a dual-meet tournament at Comsewogue High School.

Two new additions to SWR’s Century Club within a span of four days. Quite remarkable.

“That hundred wins is a big milestone for me, and I’m really excited for it to happen,” said Petretti, who is in the 132-pound weight class.

The soft-spoken Jablonski said: “I know it’s a milestone and I’m grateful to hit it. It was a happy moment, I guess.”

The synchronicity of it all is noteworthy. The pair have wrestled together since they were 5 years old. A story is told of when they were fourth-graders and both reached a county final in the same weight class. They refused to wrestle each other and were declared co-champions.

Both made their varsity debuts as eighth-graders wrestling at 99 pounds. The wins followed.

“They came up together,” Condon said. “They’re very good friends. It’s a great story.”

Jablonski holds a 103-33 career record (70-11 since he was a sophomore) entering Wednesday, when the League VII champion Wildcats are expected to wrestle in the Suffolk dual-meet tournament. He was a county champion and a fifth-place finisher in the state tournament in 2020. Petretti was 102-48 (64-14 since his sophomore season) after winning all four of his bouts Saturday and receiving the team’s most outstanding wrestler award. Both three-time all-county wrestlers take 19-2 season records into Wednesday.

In becoming the 26th and 27th SWR wrestlers to win 100 matches, the pair join a list of SWR’s greatest wrestling names such as Jesse Jantzen (221 wins), T.J. Fabian (195) and James Szymanski (193).

The two Wildcats have something else in common: They both join relatives who were already on SWR’s 100-win list. In Jablonski’s case, it was his uncle Drew Hough, who picked up his 104th win in 1988. Petretti, meanwhile, followed his older brother John Carl Petretti, who capped 154 wins in 2018.

“I’d say the biggest part of helping me get to where I am today is trying to follow my brother’s footsteps and stay on par with what he’s accomplished,” Tristan Petretti said, “and that Century Club is one of those big things where I know I’m on the right track.”

Jablonski and Petretti have also endured difficult seasons. While Jablonski had to deal with broken ribs suffered in a preseason practice as a junior (“It was pretty painful,” he acknowledged), Petretti said he fell ill in late January of 2020, not long before the coronavirus pandemic made its presence known. In retrospect, Petretti suspects he had COVID-19 at the time and didn’t know it.

“It was pretty bad,” he said. “I was out for two weeks.”

Petretti credited the arrival of former Mattituck/Greenport/Southold coach Cory Dolson to SWR’s coaching staff this season as an assistant with helping to rejuvenate him.

“Dolson came in and he whipped me into shape,” Petretti said. “He made sure that I was working hard and he motivated me. He just kind of helped me gain a love for the sport again.”

For all their similarities, it’s agreed that the two have distinctly different wrestling styles. Condon described Jablonski as a clean, surgical wrestler with a high attack rate who is good on his feet. Petretti, the coach said, is “very unorthodox, extremely difficult to prepare for, very long body, very punishing wrestler to physically wrestle. He’s dangerous from all positions.”

Jablonski said he has received a congressional nomination from Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) for the United States Naval Academy. Asked if he wants to wrestle in college, Jablonski answered: “I haven’t decided yet. I also play rugby and I’d like to play rugby in college as well, but I guess I’m keeping my options open.”

Petretti, meanwhile, said he is interested in joining the United States Coast Guard.

Wherever they end up, they will both have 100-plus wins to reflect upon.

“You still have to be very good to earn that achievement,” Condon said. “Nobody awards it to you. You got to earn it.”

Warning: Pain is involved.