Perhaps no other wrestler had as good a chance of winning a title in the L. Robert “Doc” Fallot Section XI Division II Championships as Tomasz Filipkowski. But even the Mattituck/Greenport junior confessed to feeling nerves Saturday in the 170-pound final.
“It’s still nerve-wracking, you know, the county finals,” Filipkowski said. “You lose, you’re out, you’re done. You can kiss the whole season goodbye.”
Instead of that, Filipkowski will be saying hello to Albany.
For the second year in a row, Filipkowski is a county champion. That distinction came via his 5-2 defeat of Center Moriches senior Mario Mayen in the final at Stony Brook University.
While waiting his turn for a postmatch interview, Filipkowski was called away. He returned to the interview area several minutes later, lugging the tournament’s large Champion of Champions trophy, the second year in a row in which that honor had been presented to him.
“I’m pretty pumped right now,” he said.
Filipkowski will be joined by Mattituck/Greenport’s two other county champions, eighth-grader Lucas Webb (99 pounds) and junior Chris Baglivi (195), in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships that will be held Feb. 24 and 25 in Albany.
It was a productive two-day county tournament for Mattituck/Greenport, which led in the team scoring, 20 points ahead of Bayport-Blue Point, after Friday’s matches. But Bayport caught up in Saturday’s semifinals and wrestlebacks, taking a 15-point lead over the Tuckers into the finals. Bayport won the team title with 225 1/2 points. The Tuckers, who have never won a Division II team title, had to settle for second place for the second time in team history with 208 1/2 points, quite an achievement for a young team.
“It’s a great day,” said Mattituck/Greenport coach Cory Dolson.
It was a great tournament for Filipkowski (32-2). Following a first-round bye, he scored quick pins against his first two opponents, stopping Spencer Boucher of Center Moriches in 30 seconds and then Christian Nunez of Port Jefferson in 40 seconds.
That landed him in the final against Mayen (36-9), who Filipkowski had beaten by 7 points earlier in the season. But Filipkowski knew that what is past is past, and there are no certainties in wrestling, a sport in which any wrestler can be one move away from defeat. So, even a defending champion feels pressure.
“You have to lay it out all on the line right here in these county finals,” said Filipkowski, who was a county runner-up as a freshman. “Everyone wants to be that underdog to upset you. Everyone’s coming out there full force.”
Dolson acknowledged that Filipkowski is a special wrestler. “He’s got a good combination of strength, power and athleticism,” the coach said. “He’s a super athlete. He can do things that a lot of other kids can’t do.”
The Tuckers never had an eighth-grader win a Suffolk Division II title — until Saturday, that is. Webb, a varsity rookie who has been wrestling for seven years, changed that with his 3-0 decision over Jake Palma of Bayport in their final.
Following the first tournament title of his brief varsity career, Webb said he was ecstatic. “This is a dream of mine that actually happened,” he said. “I never thought this was going to happen.”
Webb (14-5) defeated Palma (17-11) for the second time this season, wrestling what Dolson called “a perfect match.”
Webb said he felt “great. I did everything I was supposed to do.”
Webb is one of six junior high school wrestlers who train in Mattituck/Greenport’s wrestling room, and Dolson has been impressed by what they have done.
“These guys, every one of them wants to come in and practice hard every day,” he said. “Every one of them wants to keep working. Every one of them wants to lift. These little guys, they’re unbelievable.”
Baglivi came up big for his first county crown. After pinning two Bayport wrestlers — Rob Rodriguez at 3:15 and Anthony Lombardi at 5:52 — Baglivi prevailed in the final by a different means. He earned a second-period escape point and made it stand by riding Center Moriches junior Ryan Lewis the rest of the way and preventing Lewis from escaping and tying the score. After holding on for the 1-0 victory, Baglivi raised his arms in triumphant fashion.
“I’m not going to lie, I was nervous, but I believe in myself and I really thought I could win,” said Baglivi (26-9), who was bumped up a weight class after wrestling at 182 pounds for most of the season.
Baglivi noted that the county tournament is unlike most other tournaments. “The stakes are so much higher,” he said. “There’s so much more pressure.”
Lewis (28-9) came close to executing an escape in the final seconds, but Baglivi held on.
“Chris is real tough on top,” Dolson said. “That’s probably his best position.”
A fourth Mattituck/Greenport wrestler reached the finals, but sophomore Brian Pelan suffered a 7-2 loss to Babylon senior Sean Kelly at 126 pounds. Kelly is 29-3 and Pelan is 25-9.
Andre Vega (138) and James Rugnetta (170) of Mattituck/Greenport took third place. Four other Tuckers finished fourth: James Hoeg (106), Bobby Becker (138), Rich Koch (145) and Frank Zagarino (152).
For Baglivi, Filipkowski and Webb, though, their season isn’t over. They still have an upcoming business trip upstate.
Said Dolson, “Now they get to work hard for two more weeks, go to Albany and see what they can do.”