After picking up two dual meet victories last week, the Eastport South Manor wrestling team had its best showing ever at the Kujan Brothers Memorial Tournament at William Floyd High School on Saturday.
Nicky Garone (106 pounds), Jimmy Leach (113), Travis Passaro (120), Maverick Passaro (126), Kris Cassara (182), Fumnanya Agbimson (182) and Niko Bedell (285) all reached the finals of their respective weight classes. Garone, Leach, both Passaro brothers and Agbimson were champions. Garone was named Champion of Champions, which is voted on by fellow champions of the tournament, and Leach was the team’s Most Outstanding Wrestler.
“We’ve been going to that tournament for years and to have seven finalists is a very high accomplishment,” ESM head coach Nick Garone said.
Nicky Garone, the head coach’s nephew, defeated Mike Menzer of Center Moriches, 9-5, in the finals. Menzer is a former Division II Suffolk County champion and was the top-seeded wrestler in the county in his weight class, as of the latest rankings on January 10. Coach Garone said that his nephew would be very deserving of whatever accolades he receives going forward because of the hard work he has put in throughout the season.
Leach picked up a nice victory in the finals, a 4-2 decision over William Floyd’s Matt Bradice. Leach hadn’t wrestled all week in dual meets because his opponents forfeited. But he has been coming on strong the past couple of weeks and looks to be a force at the League V Championships coming up in a few weeks at Bellport High School.
Coach Garone said that not placing at the league tournament last season has lit a fire under Leach this season.
“He’s such a little spark plug and makes everyone excited,” he said. “He’s got that tough grittiness to him and he doesn’t stop, he just keeps coming.
“He’s having a fantastic year and I just love to see the way he’s evolved,” Coach Garone added. “He’s got a legitimate shot at winning the counties.”
Travis Passaro won a 5-1 decision over his Smithtown West opponent while Maverick Passaro won his finals match over Peter Broccoli of Westhampton Beach, 15-1. ESM seniors Kris Cassara and Fumnanya Agbimson met each other in the finals at 182 pounds and Agbimson won, 3-1. While many expected Agbimson to be in the finals, being ranked third in the county, it was somewhat surprising for Cassara to be in the championship round. But Coach Garone said Cassara has been enjoying a very successful senior season.
“I hope and pray [Cassara] can get to the counties because he’s a tough out,” he said. “If a kid is not ready for Kris Cassara, they’re going to get beat.”
Bedell, who Garone says is just about ready to turn the corner and become a force in the county, lost, 3-2, to his Bellport opponent in the finals on Saturday. Bedell had lost, 2-1, to Huntington’s Anthony Puca, the third-ranked wrestler in the county, in a dual meet match earlier in the week on what Coach Garone said was a questionable sprawling caution.
Overall, ESM finished fourth in the tournament with 193.5 points. Smithtown West won the tournament with 306 total points. ESM is ranked eighth as a dual meet team in the county and fourth as a tournament team.
“All the credit goes to the kids,” Coach Garone said. “They’re the ones on the mat doing the work and I’m happy for them. It’s been a long road from where we were. People don’t realize that we were in the complete doldrums five, six years ago. But we’ve crawled our way out of that and it’s the kids who should get all of the credit.”
ESM defeated East Hampton, 51-18, at home on Friday and also picked up a 53-29 victory at Huntington on January 18, the first win for the Sharks over Huntington in six years.
Nicky Garone, Cassara and Ryan Parrish (152 pounds) all won their matches by pin against Huntington while Travis Passaro won by tech fall. Travis also won by tech fall against East Hampton, while Agbimson and Cassara won by pin.
Gus Passante pinned East Hampton’s Gabriel Vargas in 5:34 and picked up six points for the Sharks. Coach Garone said that after taking a year off from wrestling, Passante has worked his way back and is giving the team a boost at the 138-pound weight class, a class the team was forfeiting earlier this season.
With the two league wins last week, the Sharks will have a shot to become co-league champions if they defeat Islip and Bellport this week. Coach Garone said that it will be difficult to defeat Islip because of an injury to John Busiello (99 pounds) and a forfeit at 220 pounds. But he’s confident his team will be healthy and ready to go come the league championship tournament and it’s quite possible his team can win the league title then.