Pair of Wildcats wrestlers secure county crowns

Two Shoreham-Wading River wrestlers’ dreams of getting their hand raised as a New York State champion are still alive and well after dominant performances in the Division II Suffolk County championships at Center Moriches High School Friday.

Gavin Mangano and Chris Colon simply took care of business and defeated every opponent in their way, finishing the tournament on the top spots of the podium

Mangano, fresh off an Eastern States tournament title, took the 131-pound weight class by storm. Nobody even challenged him. In fact, he got more impressive as the so-called tougher opponents took the mat against him. 

“Last year I was just trying to take everyone down,” Mangano said. “I added so much more to my game this year. I’m working from the top, I’m turning them around. I’m in so much more control of the match.”

Mangano pinned Mateo Silva of Center Moriches in 22 seconds, then Johan Montero of Southampton in 19 seconds and, to get into the final, pinned his teammate Shane Hall in just 15 seconds. His finals matchup was against Frank D’Elia of Port Jefferson and Mangano made quick work of him, scoring 15 consecutive points for a technical fall decision.

“Mangano is a generational talent,” SWR head coach Joe Condon said. “You don’t see many wrestlers of his caliber, period. The fact that he’s only a freshman is the part that’s truly impressive. He beats seniors with a laundry list of career accomplishments.”

“I was a little nervous getting out there,” Mangano said. He was seen pacing around before his final bout. “But once I get out there, I just get in the flow and try to get the match over as quickly as possible. I was dead set on winning.”

After falling just one point shy of being a state champion last year, Mangano is laser-focused on getting the job done this year.

“It’s going to be non-stop attacking from me when I go to the states,” he said. “I need to be the one that dictates what happens in the match. I can’t slow down. I plan to get my revenge this year.”

Colon, who faces off against Mangano every day in practice because of their similar weight, paced through the 124-pound weight class with three consecutive pins over Quentin Bausenwein of Mount Sinai, Kyle Hanus of Mattituck and then Kevin Saa Pacheco of Hampton Bays. The senior captain got the three pins in less than four minutes of match time. He was crowned champion with a 12-4 major decision over Aiden Lee of John Glenn.

“That last match definitely wasn’t my best,” Colon said. “I think after I got that early lead, it got in my head a little bit. The better idea would have been to just score the five more points and get him off the mat. Other than that I was very happy with my performance.”

Chris Colon wins the Suffolk Championship title at 124 pounds. (Bill Landon photo)

Colon is in his final season as a Wildcat and is looking to finish his time in high school with a bang.

“I made a major change in my mindset coming into this season,” Colon said. “My biggest flaw was my confidence. I have to believe in myself and my abilities. I truly think I am the best 124-pounder in the state. It’s all about realizing that on the way up there and winning every match.”

In the Karl Corpi Scramble tournament in December, he took first place, defeating Mangano and giving his teammate his only loss of the season. But among the victories, winning the state title would trump them all. Last year, Colon finished in fifth place.

“Colon’s had a great year,” Condon said. “He’s ranked fourth in the state. He’s got as good a shot as any to bring home the title.”

“We’ve only had four state champs here at Shoreham,” Colon said. “I even trained with some of the alumni here that were great wrestlers but didn’t win the states. They all told me ‘do what we could not’. I want to differentiate myself from the rest. I want to end my time here at the pinnacle of my game.”

New York State championships will take place at the Times Union Arena in Albany, Feb 24-25.