Wantagh’s Matt Rogers was not going to be denied in his bid for a repeat Nassau County wrestling title.
Rogers trailed Division’s J.D. Moore by a point early in the third period of the 182-pound finals last Sunday night following a takedown and was in danger of not returning to the New York State Championships in Albany. The junior answered the adversity with two late takedowns of his own with the final one breaking a tie for a 7-5 win.
“I did not want to lose,” said Rogers, who managed to hold Moore down for the final 35 seconds of the match to seal the championship victory. “I wouldn’t let him go at the end.”
Rogers and teammate Josiah Encarnacion both reached the top of the podium at the Nassau County individual county championships held before a packed Pratt Center on the LIU Post campus. Wantagh finished second in the team standings behind senior-laden Massapequa.
Encarnacion dominated the 113-pound finals against Hicksville’s Guerillmo Reyes in a 12-3 win to compete his third straight county crown. The junior is 51-2 on the season and is now eyeing his first state title in his third Albany appearance.
“I’m working toward the bigger goal of being a state champ,” said Encarnacion, who finished fourth on the state stage last year and sixth as a freshman. “Every day I keep grinding.”
Rogers will also be seeking a state title after placing third last winter. He will get that chance to shine again at Times-Union Center thanks to some clutch maneuvers in the third period which assistant coach Reggie Jones Jr. said epitomizes his physical and mental toughness.
“He is extremely strong and flexible,” said Jones of Rogers. “The beauty of him is that if he is in an awkward situation he will 90 percent of the bouts. He scraps real hard and is a real scrambler.”
Encarnacion and Rogers will have chances to bring championship trophies back to Wantagh when they hit the mats for the New York State Championships at the Times-Union Center in Albany on Feb. 22-23. Both wrestlers nearly missed final appearances last year with semifinal defeats.
“I personally think I should have won it last year,” Encarnacion said. “I am going to keep putting in the work and hopefully it gets me where I want to go.”
Wantagh had six All-County wrestlers overall including a second place finish from freshman Ben Rogers, who fell in the 120-pound finals to George Oroudjov of Syosset. Other Warriors reaching the podium were seniors Joe Moore (132) and Bobby Moore (126) along with seventh grader Jesse VanOrden (99.) The Warriors had won seven of the last eight county team titles, but Jones said he was pleased with finishing second in the standings given how many underclassmen were competing.
“We were extremely happy with where we finished because this was a rebuilding year for us,” Jones said. “We had a lot of brand new kids and they came through and improved throughout the season.”