Clarke wins second wrestling crown


After waiting years for their first-ever county title, the Clarke wrestling team now has two in four seasons.

Richard King, William Grassini and Justin Gonzalez all won their respective weight classes as the top seed and the Rams had four more advance to the final to win the team championship at the Section VIII Division 2 tournament at Cold Spring Harbor High School Feb. 9-10.

Clarke collected 280.5 points, 54.5 better than second place Seaford, which had one winner and two other finalists. The Rams finished 19th in the Division 1 event last year and fourth in their last Division 2 tourney appearance in 2022 after capturing their first county title in 2020. There wasn’t an event in 2021 due to the pandemic.

“It came along pretty quick and we did it with a lot of young kids too,” coach Mike Leonard Jr. said of the second title. “Most of our point scorers and finalists were all underclassmen.”

King breezed through the 116 bracket with four pinfall victories, including one in just over three minutes over Devin Pellizzi of the host Seahawks in the final. The sophomore lost his opening bout last year and advanced as far as the second round of the consolation bracket.

“I was very proud of him,” Leonard said. “He’s been putting in the work every offseason. Since he was a seventh grader, eighth grader, he’s been there throughout the entire year, and I think that’s what separates the good kids from the great kids.”

Gonzalez also enjoyed pinfall wins in all four of his matches, with three of them coming in just over a minute. The junior needed only 65 seconds to beat second-seeded Louis Cannata of Seaford in the 152 final.

“He is everything you ask for in a wrestler,” Leonard said. “He looked great, he’s moving great and he’s really a very good wrestler.”

Grassini, a freshman, recorded a major decision win and two pinfalls before outlasting North Shore’s Matteo Porres 6-2 to win the 131 bracket. He too lost his first bout in the main bracket a year ago.

“He did a great job,” Leonard said. “Will’s a gamer. I kinda figured that out when he won in seventh grade. He’s one of those guys that can turn it on when the lights are on.”

Junior Sebastian Barco (138), sophomore Sebastian Mejia (145), freshman Bryan Araujo (170) and sophomore Marcus Rosario (190) all advanced to the final, and freshman Victor Rosario (124) and senior Anthony Arevalo (215) finished third. Junior Nicholas Barco (145), sophomore Jose Pacheco (152) and senior Carlos Guevara (160) all battled hard to place fourth.

Among that group, Leonard was especially pleased with Arevalo’s performance because it ended any doubt about his ability.

“He was very much like a roller coaster,” he said. “Sometimes he looked great and then sometimes he doesn’t. It’s nice to see him go out on top.”

Leonard believes that Gonzalez is the “front runner” to place at states and will be one of the tougher competitors to beat along with King.