If U.S. Wrestling needs a poster child to prove to the International Olympic Committee that wrestling needs to be included in the Olympics in the future, it needs to look no further than Westhampton Beach senior Alex Tanzman.
After a mentally and physically draining two months, Tanzman was able to place second in the 106-pound weight class at the New York State Division I Championships at the Times Union Center in Albany on Friday and Saturday. Westhampton Beach head coach Paul Bass finally let word out following the tournament that Tanzman had a significant rib injury since the beginning of January and was told by trainers and a doctor to shut things down for two to three months to let the injury heal. The always competitive Tanzman wanted to continue wrestling, even though he has been going through an emotional challenge as well with his mother, Jina Tanzman, who is in the final stages of battling pancreatic cancer.
“It’s pretty amazing what this kid did,” Bass said. “It’s ridiculous to be able to compete at that level with that level of an injury. That coupled with the emotional stuff at home... and I don’t normally say this about my wrestlers, but I’m literally in awe of what he did.”
Bass said during a nearly month-long break, from January 5 to 23, Tanzman was forced to change to a more conservative style of wrestling than he’s used to because of the injury. Still, he went on to the win the League VI title, the Suffolk County title and then become the school’s first state finalist after having placed third at 99 pounds at last year’s state tournament.
“How you can win the toughest section in the state in Suffolk County and get to the state finals in that condition is the scary thing about it,” Bass said. “And then, after all that, he had been feeling his best in the days leading up to states, but then that Wednesday he was practicing and he hurts himself again and is back to square one.”
Judging by the scores of Tanzman’s first couple of matches of the tournament, one could see that something was off. Bass said had Tanzman been in his best shape he could have pinned his first three opponents, but instead won by three straight decisions.
Tanzman was able to make to the finals though against Wantagh junior Kyle Quinn, who is a two-time All-American. Quinn, who Bass said is best on top, went after Tanzman from the opening whistle of the state finals match. He scored two quick points off a shot on a head-control situation, then scored three points in the second period and two more in the third. Tanzman scored a point for going neutral in the waning seconds of the match and wound up losing, 7-1.
“I felt good going into it but I wrestled flat. I didn’t wrestle like myself and it showed on the mat,” Tanzman said after the match. “I could have wrestled a lot better. It could have been a better match or I should have won that match.”
The loss was Tanzman’s first of the season to a fellow 106-pound wrestler. He had lost to Ward Mellville sophomore Nick Piccininni at 113 pounds at the East Hampton Sprig Gardner Tournament in the beginning of the season. Piccininni went on to win the state title.
“[Quinn] is strong but it’s not like he’s so much better than me or so much faster than me,” Tanzman said. “I was definitely there with him I just didn’t wrestle to my potential.
“I wanted to win,” he added. “I came up here to win. No one comes up here looking for second place so I can’t be completely satisfied. It’s cool to be a two-time All-State wrestler, but placing second wasn’t my goal.”
Bass did not hesitate when asked at the end of the tournament if Tanzman was the best wrestler to ever come through the Westhampton Beach program. Tanzman finished his career with a 118-9 record, is a two-time county champion and now a two-time state place winner.
Even after all of his success though, Tanzman said the time he spent with his teammates is what he’s going to think about most when thinking back on his wrestling career, now that he’s graduating in June. “Winning counties, taking third in the state last year, making the state finals now, all that stuff is pretty cool and it’s a good experience to have,” he said.
“Wrestling teaches you a lot,” he added. “It teaches you to be focused and dedicated, so I think I’m going to take that away from it and hopefully it helps me in college and the rest of my life.”