Calling Liam McIntyre a “once-in-a-generation” athlete might sound like hyperbole, but the Westhampton Beach senior has the credentials to back it up.
McIntyre capped off his career at the New York State Division I Wrestling Championships at the Times Union Center in Albany over the weekend as the runner-up in the 195-pound weight class, after a 4-2 loss to undefeated top seed Sam Deprez of Hilton High School (Section V-Genesee Valley).
McIntyre (38-1), who was seeded sixth, knocked off the second and third seeds on his way to the battle with Deprez, who was the overwhelming favorite to win the weight class. Deprez came in with a 51-0 record, and won either by pin or technical fall in all but one of those matches, which was a win by major decision.
McIntyre finished his Hurricane career with 171 wins, the most in school history, and he was the only Hurricane to wrestle on varsity for six seasons.
Bass’s use of the “once-in-a-generation” tag, however, comes not just from McIntyre’s prowess on the mat but also his standing as the increasingly rare “pure athlete.” In the age of specialization, where more and more athletes are choosing to focus on only one sport, McIntyre has been a throwback of sorts, excelling at both football and wrestling.
During the fall, he won the coveted Hansen Award as the best football player in Suffolk County, after leading his team back to the Division III county final. The last time a Suffolk County athlete was a Hansen winner and was All-State in wrestling was in 1988, when Adam Mariano of Comsewogue did it.
McIntyre said his ability to accomplish that feat comes from a variety of sources.
“It’s definitely a testament to the hard work I’ve put in my entire life,” he said. “It’s what I feel I was born to do; I was born to compete and work. They’re the two sports I fell in love with at a very young age, and decided to dedicate myself to becoming the best at both. I had a lot of support at home and from my coaches and teammates. It’s a combination for success I was given at a very young age, and I’m grateful for all of that.”
Aside from his talent in two demanding sports, McIntyre has also been a leader on both the football field and in the wrestling room. “He’s raised the level of everyone else around him,” Bass said. “He’s clearly had an impact on all the programs he’s been in. He’s a once-in-a-generation athlete.”
Becoming the first Hurricane to win a state title would have been a perfect ending, of course, but it also would have been a big upset. Deprez is destined for a Division I wrestling program, according to Bass, and will follow in the footsteps of older brothers, who are Division I wrestlers.
Still, Bass knows never to count McIntyre out, and his opponents and anyone who’s watched his career have learned the same. “I know Liam can beat anybody at any time because he’s such an athlete,” he said.
McIntyre usually likes to push the pace and make the first move, but he took a different approach against Deprez, trying to slow the pace. It worked fairly well. Deprez did get the first takedown, in the first period, but only went ahead, 4-0, after tilting McIntyre for two back points with just seconds left in the first period.
McIntyre chose the neutral position to start the second period, and kept it scoreless. Still trailing, 4-0, in the third, McIntyre made a move and scored a takedown, but Deprez held him off to take the title.
On his way to the final, McIntyre cruised to an easy 6-1 victory over Nassau County champ Matt Hegi (35-4) of Mepham High School, before beating third seed Matt Kelly (46-5) of Iona Prep, by the same score. He faced a capable wrestler in Jhordyn Innocent (35-4) of East Ramapo (Section I-Duchess, Putnam, Rockland, Westchester), in a come-from-behind, 4-3 win. Innocent’s only loss during the regular season came at the hands of Deprez, and he finished as the runner-up in the weight class last year.
By finishing second, McIntyre earned All-State honors for the second straight year, and he became only the second Hurricane wrestler in history to finish second at states, along with Alex Tanzman, who was second in 2013.
“For me it wasn’t necessarily a goal to win a state title, but to wrestle without regrets,” he said. “Whatever the outcome at the end would be, was meant to be. I’m not disappointed. I gave it everything I had until the very end.”
He also continued an impressive streak for the Westhampton Beach program, which has sent a wrestler to the state tournament for 12 of the last 14 years. No other program in Suffolk County has done better in that regard.
McIntyre made the trip to states alongside teammate Jackson Hulse (35-6), a 160-pound sophomore who won the county title despite not being ranked in the top six in his weight class in the county all season long.
Bass was happy with Hulse’s performance at states, despite the fact that he went 0-2. Hulse lost, 3-2, to fourth seed Drew Bogdan (38-7) of Albany Academy (Section II-Capital District), and then was pinned in five minutes by fourth seed Steve Gazzillo (31-7) of Cornwall (Section IV-Orange, Sullivan, Ulster).
“The kids wrestled to the best of their ability,” Bass said, speaking of both McIntyre and Hulse. “What you see a lot of happening when kids get to this level is they underachieve. But that didn’t happen.”