The MacArthur wrestling team has high hopes for a strong showing on the county championship stage and beyond.
MacArthur qualified 13 for the upcoming Nassau County Division 1 individual county championships at Hofstra this weekend and is positioned to produce multiple champions who can then compete for state titles. The Generals finished with the most points of the eight teams that competed in the Division I qualifier last Saturday at Bellmore JFK with 404 points.
Senior Benjamin Velasquez highlighted MacArthur’s big day at qualifiers by defeating four ranked opponents en route to a first place showing at 215 pounds. Velasquez, who is one ranked at 215 in Nassau County, was named the tournament’s most outstanding wrestler after knocking off Baldwin’s Rodney Mills in the finals, 5-2.
Paul Lichter (152) also won his weight class with a pin of Baldwin’s John Wornian. The senior took second place in the counties last year at 145 and is favored to finish on top of the podium this season.
Lichter’s young brother, Matt Lichter, won the 118 -pound qualifiers by pinning Vasilios Katranis of Bellmore-JFK.
“He has been wrestling great,” said fourteenth-year MacArthur coach Rob Paletta of Matt Lichter. “We are hoping to get him All-County honors at least.”
Freshman Vincent Orandello finished as the qualifying 102 champion with his Generals’ teammate Charles Bergonzi placing second. The two had squared off a couple times already this season, but with both banged up Bergonzi opted to forfeit Saturday’s qualifying finals bout.
“I think both are going to be All-County at 102 and I think they both have a chance to be in the semifinals and finals,” said Paletta of Orandello and Bergonzi.
At 138, the Generals had both finalists with Junito Palomino prevailing over James Jennison, 7-3, to capture the title. Palomino won four matches on the day including a pair of pins.
Sophomore Thomas Bennett has made strides of late and exceeded expectations with a second place showing at counties falling to Joseph Mattei of Herricks) in the 160-pound finals. Jonathan Fox (126) also placed second.
Luke Burke placed third with a 5-4 consolation finals win against JJ Pizzirusso of Bellmore-JFK. Also earning trips to the counties with fifth place finishes were Jack Healy (145) and Aidan Vargas-Colon (172). William Cardone at (110), Trevor Rizzo (145), Mathew Powers (172) and Allan Fernande (189) just missed out on reaching qualifiers by placing sixth.
The county championships are scheduled to begin Saturday with the finals slated for late afternoon on Super Bowl Sunday at Hofstra’s Mack Sports Complex. The New York State Championships for those who qualify will take place on Feb. 24-25 at MVP Arena in Albany.
“We’re looking to get three county champions and hopefully another three or four make All-County,” said Paletta, who finished second in the counties in 1991 while wrestling for MacArthur. “We’re in a good position and we feel good with how the season has been going.”
The Generals competing at counties can qualify for states with a top three finish. Those who place in the top six will reach the podium with All-County accolades.