Santiago Maya will represent the East Hampton/Pierson/Bridgehampton wrestling team at the Suffolk County Division I Championships this weekend after placing third at the League V Championships at William T. Rogers Middle School in Kings Park on Saturday. It will be Maya’s first time competing at counties.
The 106-pound freshman was seeded third going into Saturday’s tournament. After a first-round bye, Maya pinned Stephen DiChiara of Half Hollow Hills West in 1:50 to reach the semifinals and guarantee himself a spot at counties; the top four in each weight class qualify. Maya lost to Eastport/South Manor’s Michael Falek, 6-3, in the semis, but he bounced back nicely and defeated Hauppauge’s Frank Volpe, 6-2, to place third.
Counties are this Saturday and Sunday at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood.
“I’m glad that he placed and I’m glad he qualified for counties,” East Hampton head coach Jim Stewart said. “He’s seeded ninth in the county. If he wrestles smart, works hard, hopefully he’ll place in the county, but we’ll take it one match at a time.”
Three other Bonac wrestlers competed at leagues, including Caleb Peralta (126 pounds), Brian Barrera (160) and Martin Soto (170). Peralta was the only one of the three to win a match. He pinned his first-round opponent, Brandon Brule of Hills West, in 56 seconds, but then suffered a hard-fought 10-7 loss to Hauppauge’s Kieran Fine, who ended up placing third. Stewart liked the improvement he saw from his wrestlers, specifically Maya and Peralta. Maya had lost to his consolation opponent Volpe, 5-3, in a dual meet earlier this season, and Peralta had lost to Brule, 15-3.
It’s been a bit of a hectic season for the Bonackers after Anthony Piscitello stepped down as head coach just a few weeks into the season after taking a teaching job in the city. Stewart stepped back into his former role as head coach, a position he held for many years, and he’s enjoyed it so far.
“I’m glad to be back, optimistic about the future,” he said. “Santi and Caleb are incredible building blocks to start with. Both wrestled varsity last year as eighth-graders. Both love the sport and work at it constantly. They go to freestyle camps in the offseason and both actually want to go to several camps during the summer.
“The best news, though, is that we have 35 young men in seventh and eighth grade and hopefully we’re going to right the ship going forward,” Stewart added.
Steve Redlus, an assistant coach at the middle school, and John Ryan Jr. helped recruit wrestlers, but plenty of credit goes to current team members as well, Stewart said, adding that some of them have gotten their friends to come out. That kind of effort is how big programs start to get molded, Stewart said.
“We have quite a diverse group of kids of all sizes, but when they’re all there to wrestle with their friends, that’s when you can create success. Schools like Westhampton have enjoyed that, and if you go to other schools like Kings Park, the Smithtown schools, Hills East and West, they’re all wrestling for each other.”
Maya admitted he was worried when Piscitello left, but Stewart eventually calmed those worries, he said.
“Piscitello was a really good coach. I loved him as a coach. He texted me and told me he wants me to win at counties. [But] Coach Stewart is doing an amazing job,” he said.
“He’s a good coach,” Peralta said of Stewart. “He pushes us a lot. He’s always there to support us. He’s a good coach and a great guy.”