When his team at partial strength managed to muscle past Tottenville, 37-32, in a non-conference dual meet Jan. 11, Baldwin wrestling coach Jim Murphy had his final piece of proof the Bruins were primed for a postseason run.
With three of its top seniors away at the Eastern States Classic tournament in Loch Sheldrake, Baldwin’s rally to edge the Pirates showcased the moxie of a squad that would go on to turn heads at the Section VIII Div. 1 dual meet team championship prelims at Clarke High School on Jan. 17, as the unseeded Bruins took down Glen Cove and then fifth-seeded Manhasset to reach the quarterfinals.
“These guys have shown they can step up,” said Murphy, whose team is 5-1 on the dual meet season, having finished runner-up in Conference A2 at 4-1 behind league-winner Long Beach (8-1, 7-1), against whom the Bruins logged their only loss. “I’m very proud of this team. Everyone did their job [at the team tournament]. It wasn’t just our top guys, it was a whole team effort.”
All three wrestlers from Baldwin’s Loch Sheldrake contingent won out by falls at the prelims. Matthew Kong – who is 5-0 with four pins in the ongoing regular season – bumped up a weight class for two wins at 132, while Jahlil Treasure (4-1) notched two falls bumping to 152, and Paul Wehr (5-0) tallied a pair of pins at his usual 126. Bruins senior Shea Booth (5-1, 4 falls) also pinned his Glen Cove and Manhasset opponents, winning twice Jan. 17 at 220.
“Those guys really turned it on,” Murphy said. “Our stars didn’t lose once. We especially got a big day from Shea, who really came through against some tough wrestlers.”
Murphy admired the pluck of Bruins freshmen Isiah Blemur and Stanley Zapata, who were solemnly handed tactical assignments in both rounds. “All we needed from them was to not get pinned,” Murphy said of the underclassmen, who each lost twice to seniors in the prelims – Blemur by decision against Manhasset. “A pin is worth six points, but losing by decision we only give up three. Those kids gave a great effort for the team.”
The Bruins would go down fighting in Saturday’s quarterfinal loss to number four seed MacArthur, but not without having put their stamp on the tournament – further bolstering the notions of many that Baldwin is a program to keep one’s eye on.
“When we fought tough, but lost to Long Beach late in the season, it told me something, that we’ve finally arrived,” Murphy said. “A lot of schools have teams, but Long Beach has a program, if you know what I mean. It was just a few little mistakes that cost us that meet. I’m proud and excited to see how these boys have grown as a team this year.”
Bruins sophomore Kahlil Cuffe is 5-0 in the regular season at 170, and went 1-2 in the dual meet tournament, which saw top-seeded Massapequa defeat No. 3 Wantagh in last Saturday’s final.