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Dec 4, 2018 6:29 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach Wrestling Poised For Battle In Tough League VI

Jack Santora of Westhampton Beach placed fifth at the Sprig Gardner tournament in East Hampton on Saturday. KYRIL BROMLEY
Dec 4, 2018 11:13 AM

At the Sprig Gardner Wrestling Tournament at East Hampton High School on Saturday, Westhampton Beach wrestling head coach Paul Bass saw something he hopes becomes a trend for his team this season.

A pair of seniors—132-pounder Suraj Patel and 182-pounder Hunter Burling—were dominant in winning their weight classes, both pinning all their opponents before taking their titles by major decisions in the final match. Even for coaches who always pay close attention, the names Burling and Patel may have had them scratching their heads. Neither wrestler had much success on paper last season; they didn’t make it to the county tournament or even place in the top four at the league tournament. But Bass is hoping for big things from them and the rest of their classmates this season.

“They were two of the hardest working guys in the offseason,” he said. “It’s an example of what we’re looking for.”

On top of that, the team’s large contingent of sophomore wrestlers—13 in total—also had a strong showing at the tournament. Out of 11 Hurricane wrestlers who finished in the top four, eight of them were sophomores. Westhampton Beach finished second as a team, despite not having many of its usual starters on the mat, for various reasons. Bass had given the first week of practice off to wrestlers who had played on the school’s football team, which advanced to the county final, so some of them did not yet have enough practices to compete in the tournament.

Bass referred to this year’s Hurricanes squad as “a team of no-names,” pointing out that after losing nine regular starters and standouts to graduation, the growth of the team will depend largely on the ability of both unproven seniors and talented but young sophomores to prove quickly that the work they put in during the offseason has paid off. Of course, there are a few exceptions to the “no-name” status on the team, most notably senior Liam McIntyre, who returns as one of the top wrestlers in the state in the upper weights. McIntyre is a returning Suffolk County Division I champion who placed sixth in the state last year at 182 pounds. He followed that up with a fourth-place finish at the National High School Coaches Association Nationals to become the first Westhampton Beach wrestler ever to earn All-American honors. This year, he will wrestle anywhere from 182 to 220. His intentions for his final season as a Hurricane are crystal clear.

“I think he’s set his sights on a state title,” Bass said. “And we’ve got to put in a lot of work to get there.”

McIntyre is one of just three returning All-League wrestlers, including his brother, Gavin McIntyre, and Jay Montagna. Gavin McIntyre was the league champion at 99 pounds last season, and should compete this year around 120/126, while Montagna, a junior, is a three-time All-League wrestler—who also just achieved Eagle Scout status—and will compete around 126 this year. He will captain the team along with Liam McIntyre.

Gage Rubio (152/160) is a strong returning junior who went 3-1 over the weekend at Sprig Gardner and will be a key contributor for the Canes as well.

Bass is excited about his sophomore class, which includes Luke Citarelli (106/113) who won his weight class at East Hampton over the weekend; Joey D’Agistino (99); Grant Skala (99/106); Jack Santora (106); Benzi Mancino (113); Will Zaffuto (113/120); Dean Recchion (120/126); James O’Neil (145/152); Jackson Hulse (160); Andrew Caponi (113); Christian Specht (145); John Shannon (138); and Nick Pataridze (220).

The senior class includes Patel, Ryan Darbyshire (138/145); Cole Henke (152/145); Luke Magee (170/182); Larry Citarelli (170/182); Tate Buhl (182/195); Burling and McIntyre.

“If those guys really take the next step, which we saw this weekend,” Bass said, referring to the sophomores and untested seniors, “we could be pretty tough.”

The Hurricanes will need that toughness in League VI, which Bass described, without hesitation, as the toughest league in the state. Rocky Point and Islip are both ranked in the top five in the county, while Sayville, Westhampton Beach and Miller Place are ranked in the top 15 of the county. Amityville and Harborfields fill out the league.

Westhampton Beach will be busy this month, with four dual meets before Christmas. The busy December schedule is a new reality for teams in Suffolk since last year, as the county now runs a dual meet tournament—in addition to the county individual tournament—to determine a county championship team. Building in time for those meets requires starting the regular season even earlier. The Hurricanes will open the dual meet season on December 12 at home against Sayville at 4:30 p.m.

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