Nearly 30 wrestlers from Bellmore-Merrick schools reached the Nassau Division I championships last weekend, led by Mepham High School senior Matt Hegi.
Hegi defended his 195-pound county title before a jam-packed Nold Hall on the campus of Farmingdale State University with a 4-2 decision over Ericson Velasquez from Mineola on Sunday night. Ranked No. 1 all season, Hegi worked past Farmingdale’s Nicholas Franco in a difficult semifinal earlier in the day taking a 3-2 struggle.
“It feels great,” said Hegi, who fell behind Velasquez 2-0 less than 10 seconds into the finals. “Those were two tough opponents to get through today. It was harder to win it this season than it was last season.”
Hegi heads back to the state championships where he said he’s aiming for a top three finish Feb. 28-29 at Albany’s Times Union Center.
“Matt fell behind early in last year’s county finals too but there was no panic,” Mepham coach Sean Arresto said. “
The Pirates competed in the qualifier tournament hosted by Long Beach on Feb. 8. Hegi took first in that event as well. His twin brother Ryan was runner-up at 220 and went on to finish fifth last weekend to earn All-County honors for a second straight season. James Fazio (145) and Nick Robles (170) were also second in the qualifier. Sebastian Alvarez (152) was third, Owen Trenkle (106) finished fourth, and Nick Zuzzolo (182), Ryan Thier (195) and Miguel Rivera (285) all took fifth.
Kennedy, which is loaded with youth, hosted one of Nassau’s five qualifiers and crowned a pair of champions with junior Marcus Molina getting the job done at 152 and junior Dan DeFillipo prevailing at 160.
Molina was unable to advance in the county tournament, however, DeFillipo had a strong weekend and pinned each of his first two opponents before running into Farmingdale’s Jalees Briggs in the quarterfinals. DeFillipo rebounded to win three wrestlebacks, all by impressive pins, to get on the All-County podium with a fourth-place finish.
Junior Eric Shindel, second in the qualifier at 113, also fought his way onto the All-County podium (sixth) with some gutsy performances in wrestlebacks. All three of his wins over the weekend were close decisions.
“We really bounced back from a tough season and we’re excited for the future,” Cougars coach Brian DeGaetano said. “We won 12 dual meets and had 12 kids qualify for counties. Dan and Eric put in a lot of work during the offseason and it’s great to see them get All-County.”
Other top qualifiers for Kennedy included AJ Pizzirusso (third in qualifier at 126), Jason Goldstein (third at 170), Joshua Amiel (third at 285), Noah Kava (fourth at 182), John Leone (fourth at 195), and Jefferson Cruz (fifth at 99.)
Calhoun, which qualified for the dual meet team playoffs, had a group led by junior 182-pounder Ryan Harrington and freshman 99-pounder Ray Adams. Both were second in the qualifier hosted by Long Beach. Adams won three matches on the big stage last weekend, falling one victory shy of the podium. Other Colts advancing were Nathaniel Bastien (third in qualifier at 145), Michael Patti (fourth at 160), Max Smith (fourth at 195) and Jordan Burr (fifth at 132.)