A wrestling team’s rate of success in dual meets is all about matchups. Coaches must not only have an understanding of where their own team’s strengths and weaknesses lie, but what weight classes their opponents are strong and weak in, as well. Then, they create a lineup accordingly, perhaps putting a talented wrestler up one weight class, moving a JV wrestler to another spot. Those types of tweaks and tinkerings are even more crucial in close matches, such as the championship meet of the Westhampton Duals at Westhampton Beach High School on Saturday, where the host Hurricanes took on Division II powerhouse Mattituck.
The Tuckers aren’t a typical Division II team—they have a stacked lineup and are expected not only to dominate Division II this year but have proven that they can beat plenty of talented Division I teams as well. Westhampton Beach head coach Paul Bass knew his team would likely face the Tuckers in the final, and knew it wouldn’t be easy getting past them. He created what he thought was the best lineup for his team’s success, and while certain matches didn’t work out the way he expected, his wrestlers managed to pull out a 36-31 victory, taking home the title after going 4-0 in dual meets on the day.
Westhampton Beach and Mattituck met in the final after winning their respective pools earlier in the day. The eight-team tournament was split into two four-team pools, and each team wrestled every team in its pool. The teams with the best record in each pool met for the championship, the teams with the second-best records battled for third and fourth place, and so on.
Before facing the Tuckers, the Hurricanes enjoyed three victories by more comfortable margins than they experienced in the final, taking out Bay Shore, 67-9, beating Deer Park, 47-30 ,and getting past Newfield, 52-21.
The final against Mattituck, Bass said, was a prime example of his Hurricane wrestlers picking each other up and showing the true meaning of teamwork in a sport where individual success is typically the focus.
One of the biggest victories of the meet came at 160 pounds, where Aidan Kravitz, filling in for injured starter Ben Zeqiri, pulled out a 7-6 win over Anthony Howell. Kravitz was losing, 6-2, with 25 seconds left in the match before pulling a five-point move to get the win.
There were other key victories as well in a match where every point was crucial. At 120 pounds, Kyle Maddock beat James Hoeg, 6-4, in overtime, getting the winning takedown in the extra session, and at 138 pounds, Ryan Osborne, another back-up wrestler, was losing to his opponent, Bobby Becker, before turning the tide and pinning Becker in 4:34.
Another key bout for Westhampton Beach was at 195 pounds, where first-year wrestler Bryan Corrigan was sent out to face Chris Baglivi, a dominant wrestler in that weight class. Bass didn’t expect Corrigan to beat Baglivi, but hoped Corrigan could be feisty enough to keep Baglivi from pinning him or winning by a technical fall or major decision, which would have given Mattituck bonus points. Corrigan delivered, keeping the battle close in a 4-2 loss.
Corrigan’s close loss all but sealed the victory for the Hurricanes, Bass explained, because at 220 pounds, the final bout of the day, Hurricane Jake Martin was expected to get a win easily. But if Corrigan had gotten pinned or lost by a wider margin, Martin would have needed not only to win but to earn bonus points to give his team enough points for the win. (Westhampton Beach knew it was giving up six points to Mattituck at 285 pounds because it had to forfeit that weight class). As it turned out, Martin won with a pin anyway, but Bass said that Corrigan’s 4-2 loss took off the pressure of making a bonus-point victory by Martin a necessity.
The clutch performances by Maddock, Osborne, Kravitz and Corrigan were keys to the match, Bass said, since other Hurricane wrestlers didn’t have the kind of outings that Bass expected. But he said that’s what wrestling, and teamwork, is all about.
“We had some good and we had some bad,” Bass said, reflecting on the tournament as a whole. “But the kids stepped up when they needed to step up, and that was really important. They believe in each other and it’s kind of neat, because that’s really going to matter.”
Bass went on to explain that he expects the League VI dual meet season to be fiercely competitive, with Elwood/John Glenn, Shoreham/Wading River and Rocky Point all expected to be extremely tough teams this year. He believes his squad has the talent to beat anyone, but said he expects those matches to all be close battles, like the match with Mattituck.