It was the performance heard round the state. absolutely dominated at the state CHSAA wrestling championships on Sunday at Chaminade.
The Friars set meet records for most wrestlers in the tournament (23), most finalists (12), most individual champions (9) and most points (336) in claiming the team title for the third straight year.
The most remarkable part? How the Friars dealt with all the success.
“It’s a stepping stone, a means to an end and the goal was to get the kids through to the event that matters,” St. Anthony’s coach Tony Walters said. “The whole season has been based upon making history. The kids are well aware of what they need to do. They are getting the job done.”
The path culminates Feb. 25 when Walters takes nine wrestlers to the state Federation meet at the Times Union Center in Albany. Walters hopes this group of Friars can deliver the first team title to a Catholic program in an event public schools usually rule.
It starts with the veteran wrestlers.
You could not have had a tougher weekend than the ones Jamel Hudson and Jimmy Morris endured last season. Hudson went 0-2 en route to a quick exit and Morris missed his shot at destiny because he didn’t make weight.
“It motivates me more,’’ said Morris, of Northport. “I’m lifting, running and practicing every day. I’m definitely on a different level than I was last year.”
Morris, a senior who owned the 125-pound weight class this season, is a three-time state CHSAA champ. He was third at Federations in the 103 weight class in 2009 and hopes to bring home not just individual glory, but the elusive team title too.
“The kids are ready for this type of tournament,” Walters said. “The second day is the important day. You get them through the first day. The second day is when you let them loose. We prepare by doing intense, longer matches.”
Walters put together a formidable schedule that saw the team travel to Binghamton and California to face the best New York and the nation had to offer. The results have been record-breaking so far.
At Catholic states, nine Friars won titles: Freshman Freddy Dunau (96 pounds), Morris (125), Hudson (135), senior Mike Gangarossa (145), sophomore Jon Vrasidas (152), junior Dariyan Riley (171), senior Paul Alessandrini (189), junior Andrew Auriemma (215) and senior Jon Desir (285).
Morris became the seventh St. Anthony’s wrestler to be crowned a three-time champ, pinning Farrell’s Tim McCann in the finals in 1 minute, 11 seconds. Vrasidas, a second-string wrestler all season, made the most of is opportunity when teammate Matt Szilagyi was upset in the semifinals. And then there was Dunau, whose victory made his the fourth freshman in school history to win.
“The schedule we had helped us build to the point where we’re at right now,’’ said Hudson, a junior from Bay Shore. “We’re starting to peak.”
Hudson too wants atonement for last year.
“I was like a deer in headlights,” he said after going 0-2. “I can’t lie.”
The crowd was intimidating. And the depth of the tournament proved too much. Not this time around. Hudson has performed as well as anyone in the state this winter.
“I’m focused,” Hudson said. “I’m ready. I’m going out there to have fun on the mat.”
Feat of the Week
Whitman senior foil Lily Michelson didn’t take home a Suffolk fencing title over the weekend, but she was honored with the James A. Nelson Hero Award. Nelson, a former Centereach fencer and member of the Port Authority police, died in the Sept. 11th attack on the World Trade Center.
Games of the Week
Unbeaten (18-0) is the top seed in the Suffolk Class AA girls basketball bracket. The Tigers will host the outbracket winner of Central Islip-Smithtown East on Monday at 6 p.m. The Tigers beat CI twice during the regular season. No. 5 Whitman (15-3) hosts No. 12 Bellport (12-6) at 6 p.m. Monday. League II rivals Whitman and Northport share the same bracket and could meet in the semis Feb. 28 at Farmingdale State. In the opposite bracket, No. 19 plays an outbracket game at noon Saturday at No. 14 Comsewogue. The winner gets No. 3 Sachem East at noon Monday.
The Class A playoffs feature No. 1 (18-0), which has a bye into the semifinals Feb. 26 at 3:30 p.m. It gets the winner of Miller Place vs. Shoreham-Wading River. The final is March 1 at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue.
In boys basketball, No. 6 (12-6) hosts No. 11 Brentwood (10-8) in a Suffolk Class AA first round game Saturday at 2 p.m. With No. 3 West Babylon a likely opponent in the quarterfinals on Feb. 24, Whitman has a legitimate path to the semifinals. The Wildcats went 1-1 in the postseason a year ago.