The Eastport South Manor wrestling team had the distinction of being the only team from Suffolk County to take part in the Public School Athletic League’s seventh annual holiday tournament this past weekend.
The two-day individual tournament pitted some of the top wrestlers in the tri-state area against each other. The first day of the tournament on Saturday took place at Harry S Truman High School in the Bronx. The second day of the tournament was a part of the Grapple At The Garden, which featured some of the top college wrestlers in a separate tournament at Madison Square Garden. High school wrestlers were able to watch some of the best collegiate wrestlers while also meeting some wrestling greats, such John Smith and Kenny Monday.
“I just have one word to describe it: amazing,” ESM head coach Nick Garone said. “It was the most unbelievable situation ever to have been involved in as a coach. It’s history, and we were a part of that this weekend. It was the best thing ever, and we’ll be a part of it next year as well.”
ESM did extremely well throughout the tournament, advancing six wrestlers to the final day, where they were able to show off their skills in front of almost 10,000 spectators. The Sharks finished ninth overall out of 37 teams, with 77.5 points. Long Branch High School of New Jersey won the tournament with 251 points.
ESM’s John Busiello, a freshman, eased through his bracket and won the 99-pound weight class. Busiello defeated Matt Maquet of Long Beach, 19-3, in the finals. After a first-round bye, Busiello pinned his first opponent, then defeated his semifinal opponent, 12-0.
Coach Garone said it was great for Busiello to come through with a solid tournament. Even though Busiello had a successful season last year as an eighth-grader, he missed much of the latter part of the season due to an elbow injury. “The off-season really helped him to be motivated. He was really looking forward to this season,” Coach Garone said. “And it was great to see him win, too, because he is such a huge wrestling fan. With all of the wrestling legends walking around, he was starry-eyed.”
Travis Passaro finished third at 126 pounds, while Sean Carey placed fifth at 138 pounds. Nick Garone, the coach’s nephew, placed fifth (113 pounds), while Joe Zarcone (220) and Niko Bedell (285) both placed seventh.
Passaro was in one of the most competitive brackets of the entire tournament and lost, 7-3, in the semifinals to Keanu Thompson of Grand Street Campus, a Brooklyn public school known for its wrestling program. Thompson finished second.
Passaro won his first two matches by tech fall, then, after losing to Thompson, defeated John McHugh of Columbia High School in New Jersey, 10-1, to place third. “Keanu Thompson is a really, really tough wrestler. I think he could be a state place-winner this year,” Coach Garone said.
It’s quite possible that Sean Carey could have placed higher than fifth place, had he not faced Karl Wiesner of Monsignore Farrell. Carey is 9-2 so far this season, and both losses have come to Wiesner. Carey lost to Wiesner at the Autism Duals at William Floyd High School two weeks ago.
Coach Garone said he was “pleasantly surprised” with Joe Zarcone, who pinned Lawrence Jimenez of Martin Luther in 2:00 to take seventh place. The Sharks are in need of a 220-pounder to fill out the lineup on a regular basis, and Coach Garone may have found that in Zarcone.
“I think he needed a little bit of confidence, because hasn’t had it, and this could maybe be the difference-maker for him,” he said.ON THE SCHEDULE: Friday, 12/28, Sachem North Tournament, 9 a.m.; Saturday, 12/29, Sachem North Tournament, 9 a.m.; Friday, 1/4, at Kings Park, 6 p.m.