When senior Nigel McNeil arrived in third period Forensics class on Monday, it didn’t take David Caruso to figure out what would be dissected next.
McNeil, fresh off winning a state Federation wrestling championship on Saturday at the Times Union Center in Albany, was the talk of .
Once his feat was acknowledged over the morning announcements – during third period – his celebrity status was official. Class work ground to a halt as McNeil recounted his herculean feat.
That’s no exaggeration. McNeil, who is being courted by Rutgers and is considering Oklahoma and Central Michigan, capped his high school career with back-to-back state titles and 80 straight wins, dating to his sophomore year.
“There was no room for a bad day,” McNeil said.
McNeil rolled through the 119-pound weight class at states, winning four matches over two days. He took a 5-1 lead into the third period against Danny Ventura of Fox Lane. Ventura closed the gap to 5-3 when he caught McNeil out of position for a takedown. But McNeil got up, earned a quick point and cruised to an 8-3 victory to finish his senior season a perfect 40-0.
“Things went according to plan,” Blue Devils coach Kieran Mock said. “Nigel was ready for it. He won all four matches. He never fell behind. Real workmanlike. He dominated. He gave up one takedown the entire tournament.”
McNeil became the 26th state champ in school history and the fifth Huntington wrestler to win two state titles, joining: Jeff Thomas (1974-75), Paul Widerman (1977-78), Gene McNeil (1984, '86) and Pat Flynn (2000, '02).
Another McNeil in the record books? That’s no coincidence. Gene McNeil is his cousin. And the driving force behind the latest McNeil success story? That would be half-brother Stef Sair, himself a former state and NCAA Division III wrestling champ.
“I’ve been around the program,” said Mock, a 1982 graduate and himself a state champ who watched his first Huntington wrestling match as a 7-year-old. “I’ve seen all 26 state champs to come through Huntington High School, whether watching them or wrestling with them or coaching them. What he did the last two years is as good if not better than any of them.”
Both the elder McNeil and Sair offered advice to the talented wrestler. But Sair, who teaches and coaches at Manhasset High School, trained his brother through the years, molding an eventual champion.
“I started wrestling because of my older brother,” McNeil said. “He’s a state champ. He’s trained me over the years and gotten me to where I’m at now.”
It led to a third-place finish as a sophomore followed by a . Then for the difficult part – staying on top.
“Right after I won the first one, I knew if I wanted to come back I’d have to start working at it again,” McNeil said.
McNeil wasn’t just great. He was perfect. Huntington finished in 22nd place in Division I with 24 points. Section XI (Suffolk County) won the sectional team title with 269.5 points to outdistance runner-up Section I (Westchester) by 70 points.