East Meadow starts to gain steam


As the holiday season winds down and the tournament portion of the wrestling season draws to a close, East Meadow is starting to pick up a head of steam on the mats. The Jets, who suffered big blows with the loss of both junior Brandon Cohen and sophomore Anthony Napolitano to season-ending injuries, have rebounded and earned a third-place finish at the Terry Haise Tournament at Freeport on Dec. 15. Senior Matt Power (138 pounds) and junior Adam Smith (113) each earned individual championships, finishing a combined 7-0 on the day.

For Smith, the championship, which included a 10-2 decision over Westbury’s Raeco Jackson in the finals, was an instant confirmation that his offseason workload was well worth the effort. After getting 50 matches under his belt before the start of the Jets’ campaign, Smith placed in East Meadow’s first two tournaments before winning his individual title. “He had a phenomenal offseason,” coach Chris Critchley said. “He did everything and then some. He’s wrestling better and tougher, and he was also able to keep his weight down so he could stay in the same weight class two years in a row.

“He does serve as an example to the other kids in the room that you need the offseason to make up the deficiencies and what you are lacking.”

Power, meanwhile, won all four of his bouts at the Freeport Tournament, capped by a 12-4 decision over Commack’s Anthony Basile in the finals. Still battling back from an early season injury, Power and classmate senior Michael Tropiano (152 pounds) were in the lineup together last Saturday for the first time this season.

Sophomore Matthew Girsch, a 99-pounder, took home fourth place at Freeport, following up prior strong performances at the Bruins Cup at Baldwin on Dec. 8 (fifth place), and The Battle at the Beach in Long Beach on Dec. 1 (third place). He knocked off Long Beach’s Cain Tagliagambe, 7-2, in the consolation finals for third. Frank Clarke has had some hard-luck draws with a pair of matches against the No. 1 seed in his weight class — 145 pounds — but the senior, a four-year member of the varsity team, still gave both opponents their stiffest tests of the tournaments.

Three members of the Jets’ football team have had early success on the mats, tipping the scales in East Meadow’s favor in a 33-30 dual meet win over Garden City on Dec. 12. Senior Michael Petti (182 pounds) needed just 30 seconds to pin the Trojans Lucas Hildreth, while classmate Rafael Contreras, a 220-pounder, won by pin at the 54-second mark against Andrew Hanna. Sophomore Marcus Watkins dropped a hard-fought 4-0 decision to Matt Vitale at 285 pounds. At Freeport, Petti and Watkins each took home third, while Contreras earned fourth place.

“We’re hoping the football guys continue to contribute,” Critchley said. “They helped us take third at the Terry Haise and best Garden City in the dual meet.”