Wildcats freshman Mangano wins state wrestling 

When talking about Shoreham-Wading River’s superstar freshman wrestler Gavin Mangano, put some emphasis on MAN.

On the biggest stage, under the brightest lights, in front of thousands of spectators, Mangano brought home a Division II New York State title Saturday night at MVP Arena in Albany. One year removed from losing in the finals by a mere point, Mangano, in a new weight class, dominated the field and left no doubt that he could be the man of the mat for the years to come.

Entering into the tournament as the No. 1 seed in the 131-pound division, the pressure was on. But for Mangano, this was just another tournament. He’s been wrestling since kindergarten and he’s won major titles before, including the Eastern States tournament twice.

“This is the only sport where you can literally show that you’re better than the other person,” Mangano said. “I like the ability to dominate on an individual level. I like to win and be in control of my own destiny.”

Mangano opened up the tournament with a 15-0 technical fall victory against Port Jefferson’s Frankie D’elia (39-4) just two minutes into the match. Then he defeated Abdul-Ja Zaggout (39-13) from Unatego/Unadilla Valley with a 6-4 decision in a match where Mangano ended up hurting his wrist.

“I wouldn’t really call it an injury,” Mangano said. “I jammed it a little bit. It affected me somewhat but I just wanted it more than everyone else.”

Mangano then took down Justin Mullis (42-11) of Hudson Valley with a 12-2 majority decision to cement a spot in the finals against Jayden Duncanson (31-2) of Tioga. 

“Duncanson won most of his matches by first round pin during the season,” SWR head coach Joe Condon said. “He’s a dangerous wrestler. His brother is a three-time state champ and he comes from the best team in the state. So we knew he would be tough.”

Until he met the man. Mangano got offensive early and kept scoring points. He was in complete control. Takedown after takedown, with some near falls mixed in, Mangano jumped ahead 14-3 going into the final minute of the third round where he finished the victory with a pin in the waning seconds. 

“This was my second time on such a big stage,” Mangano said. “I lived in the moment. I wasn’t nervous like I was last year. I had confidence that I could get it done. I know I belong here. It felt good to end the match with a pin.”

“Mangano’s one of those rare wrestlers that just continues to score points throughout the match,” Condon said. “He can score points in all positions: top, bottom, neutral, it doesn’t matter. There’s not a lot of things you can do against him to score. And not only that, the 131-pound weight division is one of the most talented divisions in the nation.”

When the referee called the match, Mangano got up and made a bow and arrow sign with his arms, shooting two imaginary arrows into the stands.

“Those were for my parents,” he said. “They’ve believed in me and pushed me to the point that I am now. I owe it all to them.”

Only four SWR wrestlers have won state titles in the school’s history, and Mangano’s win as a freshman puts him on an historic career trajectory. Jesse Jantzen is the only SWR wrestler to win four New York state titles, and was the first to accomplish that feat on Long Island. Jantzen posted high school career record was 221-3, and Mangano is currently 117-3. Jantzen, who graduated from SWR in 2000, went on to win the 149-pound NCAA crown for Harvard in 2004.

“Mangano is absolutely in the conversation for one of the best to ever wrestle here,” Condon said. “I don’t like comparing wrestlers, but Jantzen was the best to ever do it. Can Mangano get there? He definitely has the talent. He still has three years left to prove himself.”