Clarke impressing on the mat

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The Clarke wrestling team has been ram-tough this season and has the hardware to prove it.

After already collecting championships at the Sprig Gardner and Cove Cup tournaments, the Rams continued their mat mastery last weekend by taking the Dan Wickham Classic in upstate Unatego, N.Y. Five wrestlers won their respective weight classes in helping the team rally from a point down entering the finals to finish with 281 points, 11 better than second-place Longwood.

Senior Lucas Abbatiello had one of the bigger victories of the weekend when he pinned Longwood’s Johnathan Delvecchio in 3½ minutes to claim the 160-pound title. Freshman Jordan Soriano (126) and senior Aiden Yurdiga (138) won their championship matches by technical fall and junior Michael Forte (152) earned his via a decision while star senior Karl-Osmond Bouyer needed almost six minutes to pin Scoty Barnhart of Walton/Delaware Academy in the 220 final to remain undefeated.

“We’re pretty much on a roll,” Clarke coach Mike Leonard said.

Leonard said winning the Sprig Gardner tournament was especially sweet because the team’s previous best effort in the event was fourth.

“For us to win that was pretty nice,” he said.

Bouyer, the defending county champion, is 25-0 at press time and has lost just two matches since the beginning of last season, including the 2019 state tournament. His pin of Glen Cove’s Phil Aguilar helped the Rams claim the Cove Cup on Jan. 4 after earning decision victories in the finals of the Battle of the Beach and Sprig Gardner tourneys, including a tough 7-6 victory over Mepham’s Ryan Hegi in the latter.

“He was working all last season, running and wrestling a lot,” Leonard said. “His greatest strength, I think, is that he’s determined. He never looks for an easy way out.”

Abbatiello entered this week leading the team with 26 wins, while Yurdiga (23-2), Soriano (20-4) and Forte (19-4) are also having solid seasons. Senior Gabe Cubero (106) is 19-5 and continues to show tremendous growth with more experience after going just 5-20 in his sophomore season.

One of the team’s few blemishes this season was a one-point loss to Cold Spring Harbor on Jan. 8. The teams were tied in points at the conclusion of the bout, but the Seahawks emerged as the victors by virtue of most matches won. Even though the Rams have emerged as one of the best teams in the county, Leonard still view Cold Spring Harbor as the greatest threat.

“They’ve got four all-state kids [and] we have two right now so we’re trying to close the gap,” he said. “Hopefully by the time we move into the playoffs, we can close the gap enough to beat them this time.”

Leonard is hoping to at least double last year’s representation at states and said that as much as five of his grapplers could make the trip to Albany in late February. But a shorter-term goal for now is to win the team county title after a fourth-place finish last season.