The dominance over Division II teams in Suffolk County speaks for itself. The Mattituck/Greenport/Southold wrestling team has won 30 straight dual meets entering this season. The Tuckers had seven county champions last year and enter this season with a wrestler ranked top-two in 12 of the weight classes, according to preseason rankings by Long Island Wrestling Association.
So it’s no surprise the Tuckers have packed their schedule with as much tough competition as possible. The Tuckers may be a Division II team, but their talent is on par with many of the top teams from larger schools.
“This is probably the toughest schedule I’d say we’ve ever put together,” said Mattituck coach Cory Dolson. “There are a lot of really tough teams.”
The Tuckers will see elite teams like Rocky Point and Brentwood at a dual meet tournament, top Nassau teams in Farmingdale and Locust Valley and a handful of wrestlers will travel to the prestigious Eastern States Tournament.
It all should add up another memorable season for the Tuckers, who are aiming for a fifth straight Division II County Championship.
But all the success hasn’t slowed down the motivation in the wrestling room, Dolson said.
“Our kids are still hungry,” Dolson said. “We’re still looking for an individual state champion, we’re still looking to win a team state title. Last year we took third in the state tournament.”
The Tuckers return another deep and talented lineup that should easily be the favorite in the county for Division II. But as Dolson noted, their goals run much deeper.
The hope of an individual state champion starts with the team’s top three returning wrestlers: junior Jack Bokina and seniors James Hoeg and Tanner Zagarino. All three were all-state wrestlers last year. Zagarino’s third-place finish matched the best finish for a Mattituck wrestler in program history. Bokina and Hoeg were both fourth in their weights.
“They all got a little bigger, a little stronger,” Dolson said. “They’ve all been wrestling a high number of offseason matches. They never really stopped. Kids at that level get to that level for a reason.”
Hoeg will wrestle at 182 or 195 and Zagarino will be one weight higher. The two wrestlers being at consecutive weights gives them a unique opportunity to always have a top wrestler to spar with in practice.
“You got two hammers there,” Dolson said. “They battle with each other every single day.”
All three wrestlers surpassed 40 wins on the season last year.
The Tuckers have a large core of seniors to fill out the lineup. TJ Beebe, a three-time runner-up at the county meet, will look to break through this year at either 132 or 138. Carmine Vergari is a returning all-county wrestler who will go at 138 or 145. Thomas Hoeg, who lost a close match in the county finals last year, returns at 152. He’s making a big jump this year after wrestling 120 last year. Gage Suglia returns at 182.
New additions to the starting lineup are Tom Salice at 160/170 and Ben Schmidt at 170. Salice earned all-county honors last year.
Junior Luke Bokina, Jack’s twin brother, was a county champion last year and has his sights set on a return to the state tournament. He’ll wrestle at 120.
In the lower weights, the Tuckers feature twins Sean and Brian Feeney. Both are 99-pound wrestlers, but one will most likely have to wrestle at 106 to spread out the lineup.
The Tuckers opened the season last weekend with a 5-0 run at the Takedown Autism Duals at William Floyd. The Tuckers picked up wins over Comsewogue (84-4), Eastport-South Manor (40-30), Islip (44-33), Smithtown West (50-21) and William Floyd (54-23).
“When we go to these tournaments now we’re expecting to win them, so if we don’t it’s a disappointment,” Dolson said. “It was a good start to the season. It’s pretty early, too, so I didn’t know how we were going to respond to wrestling five matches in a day.”
Photo caption: Mattituck’s three returning all-state wrestlers, Tanner Zagarino, James Hoeg and Jack Bokina, have their sights set on becoming the Tuckers’ first state champion. (Credit: Daniel De Mato/Ray Nelson)