SWR freshman sets sights on state wrestling crown

Even almost a year later, Shoreham-Wading River’s Gavin Mangano loss in the Division II New York State final in the 110-pound weight class sits fresh in his mind as he prepares for the upward climb of tournaments once again. 

Only an eighth grader at the time, Mangano won the league title, then cruised to the Suffolk County crown and had little issue getting to the final match against state champion Darren Florance from BGAH, a high school upstate near Binghamton. Florance, a junior, was the unanimous pick to win the tournament and Mangano, coming into the year, was the unknown, up-and-coming talent. 

Rattled with nerves, Mangano fell behind in the first two rounds of the match, 6-0, before pulling off a comeback in the third and final period. The two wrestlers battled it out as Mangano got on the board with an escape and proceeded to take the champion down two times to make the score 7-5. In a third attempt for a takedown, Florence got credited with an escape before Mangano connected on his final takedown of the match to make the score 8-7. Mangano went for the pin to win the match in the waning seconds but time eventually ran out. One point separated him from being a state champion.

“Losing in the state final still weighs on me a lot,” Mangano said. “To be that close and lose it, makes it that much harder. I really wanted to be the state champion last year but, hey the good thing is I got another shot at it this year.”

“For him to be in that match as an eighth grader shows what kind of talent this kid is,” SWR head coach Joe Condon said. “He lives for wrestling. He was heartbroken after that loss. But he’ll be back there again. He’s only getting better and more efficient.”

Mangano, now a freshman sporting a remarkable 101-3 career match record, grew a few inches and sports a bigger, much stronger build. He’s the new guy again — not to the scene but to a new weight class. During the season Mangano wrestled at 131 pounds, but more recently he entered the 124-pound bracket in the Eastern States Classic on Jan. 13 and brought home his second straight title in the event after defeating Northport senior Matt Marlow via a 7-3 decision. The Eastern State Classic is one of the most reputable tournaments in all of the Northeast. The two-day event, hosted at Sullivan County Community College, features wrestlers from seven states. Mangano was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament.

With two Eastern State titles in hand, Mangano has his sights set on climbing the podium again in the state tournament. This time, with the gold medal. 

“I’ve been doing a lot more strength training,” Mangano said. “I wasn’t really working out last year. I’ve been working to improve my strength and my top and bottom skills. In the offseason, I’m practicing at least six days a week to get better.”

Where most top athletes in the high school ranks play multiple sports, Mangano focuses solely on his one true love from a young age: wrestling. 

“I love the feeling of winning,” he said. “I love the fact that it’s one-on-one. When you win a big match, there’s no feeling like it. I want that moment. I crave that moment.”

Before Mangano gets another shot at that New York State title, he’ll have to get through the league championships (Feb. 3) and then the Division II Suffolk County championships (Feb. 9). The New York State tournament will take place Feb. 23 and 24. 

Hopefully it ends with a Shoreham-Wading River freshman’s hand raised in the air.