Owen Bachelder came too far not to finish the job.
On the morning of Feb. 12, the Hewlett freshman pulled off the biggest upset in the Nassau Division I wrestling tournament when he pinned Wantagh’s Chris Araoz, the No. 1 seed and a national champion, in a 126-pound semifinal. Later that evening, Bachelder became the school’s first county champion with a 4-1 decision over Manhasset’s Mike Fera, the No. 2 seed, in the title bout.
“I can’t even describe the feeling,” said Bachelder, who missed the majority of last season with a knee injury after placing fifth in the county as a seventh-grader. “It’s unbelievable,” he added. “It’s all those extra hours at practice that got me where I am. I just got on a roll and kept it going.”
Bachelder won all five of his matches in the tournament, upping his record on the season to 30-10, and was named Most Outstanding Wrestler and Champion of Champions. He’ll represent the Bulldogs at the New York State championships Feb. 22-23 at Albany’s Times Union Center.
“Owen beat four of the top five seeds,” Hewlett coach Stephen Jones said. “I’ve never seen anything like the run he made. He’s a very strong kid for his size. He had the right mindset, and his confidence grew with every match.”
Of Araoz, who settled for third place after finishing runner-up at 120 pounds last winter, Bachelder said: “He’s a great wrestler, no doubt about it. Beating him seemed like an impossible task.”
With more than eight hours between the semifinals and finals, Bachelder said he did his best to relax. “I went home and got a little sleep,” he said. “But I was feeling a lot of pressure.”
Bachelder avenged a one-point defeat to Fera in the county qualifier tournament hosted by Mepham on Feb. 2. “I knew I had to be tough on top,” Bachelder said. “I had to watch his shots. He’s a dangerous guy.”
On the first day of the county tournament, Feb. 10, Bachelder went 3-0 with two pins to guarantee himself a second All-County finish in three years. Sitting out most of last season was difficult, he said. “It was extremely agonizing, but at least I avoided surgery,” Bachelder said. “I watched all the matches and cheered on my teammates.”
The Bulldogs had eight representatives at this year’s county tournament and finished an impressive 10th in team scoring with 79 points. Senior Simon Greebel earned All-County with a third-place finish at 120 pounds, while eighth-grader Lucas Pincus took All-County by placing sixth at 106. Greebel went 5-1 in the two-day event, and Pincus went 3-2.