Most scholastic sports enthusiasts recognize wrestling to be among the most challenging and grueling of all high school athletic competitions. Grapplers who properly prepare, mentally and physically, for the rigors of a wrestling season go through living hell in an effort to be standing upon a podium at the end of the season.
Having his team prepared for the county qualifier was of utmost importance to Hewlett head coach Stephen Jones when the 2019-20 season got underway. Jones entered his team into the toughest of tournaments and took on top-notch competition to make sure his boys were battle-tested when February rolled around.
The strategy seems to have paid off. Hewlett had an outstanding performance in last weekend’s Section VIII Qualifier at Massapequa High School. The Bulldogs will have 14 wrestlers competing in the Nassau County Division I Championships at Farmingdale State College beginning on Saturday. Seven Hewlett boys made it all the way to the finals with two earning championships.
Everything has gone really well for us,” Jones said. “The most important thing is that we are wrestling at our best right now. The tough schedule was definitely a big plus. There’s no way we would have had 14 qualify for the counties if this meet was last month. We just got better and better.”
The Bulldogs had a pair of eighth graders qualify in the 99-pound class with Kirk Smith finishing second and Eric Gendlin placing fifth. Hewlett, which finished in second place behind Manhasset in Conference III-A during the regular season, saw its first champion crowned in the 106-pound class when freshman Ariel Waldman earned a 7-2 decision over East Meadow sophomore Nick Chimienti.
Senior Tyler James, who earned All-County honors as a junior, finished first at 160 pounds when he defeated teammate junior Fletcher Goodman in the championship match. Both qualified for next week’s county tournament. Sophomore Jacob Maiorano was runner-up at 220 pounds, and he earned the distinction of having the most pins in the shortest amount of time.
Sophomore Diego Gonzalez had a narrow defeat in the consolation match and finished in fourth place at 113 pounds. Senior Naim Lynch put up a fight against one of the state’s best at 120 pounds before settling for second place. Junior Joey Iannaci also qualified at 120 with his third place finish.
The Bulldogs had two qualify at 132 pounds as junior Michael Iannico finished third and sophomore Josh Gendlin took fifth. Senior Muiz Hussain finished third at 170. Junior Neoray Azour, a first-year wrestler, had a fine performance. Azour took second place at 182 pounds.
“I’m very happy with how we competed,” Jones said. “The goal, as a team, is to finish in the top five. We could definitely have a few champions. If things fall into place, we should do very well. The future looks good, too. We’ll lose some seniors, but we have guys who will step right into their spots. We should be good for awhile.”