Bittersweet is not the Bokina brothers’ favorite flavor.
Twin brothers Jack and Luke Bokina know a thing or two about bittersweet. What the two Mattituck/Greenport/Southold high school wrestlers experienced at the state meet last year was the epitome of bittersweet. They both reached state finals, only to be disappointed in the end with defeats.
It’s high school wrestling’s equivalent to losing the Super Bowl. Just making it that far is a remarkable achievement in itself, but that loss at the end …
“That hurt,” Jack Bokina said. “Honestly, it killed me the next couple of days, but I just got right back into working out and working hard again.”
It helped that it was the junior season for the Bokinas. They still had one more season — this season — to achieve their state dream.
“It was tough at the time,” Luke Bokina recalled. “The day of was pretty bad, but then, you know you’re a junior and you still have another year so you can still keep working towards that. You just have to look at it that way.”
And so, the Bokinas are back on track, winning matches and hoping that they will return to the Times Union Center in Albany for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships Feb. 23 and 24. Only this time, they want a happier ending.
They did witness two of their former teammates, James Hoeg and Tanner Zagarino, become Mattituck’s first state champions last year before graduating.
“I think it’s hard but I think you get so close to winning that I think it keeps you hungry,” Mattituck coach Cory Dolson said. “They had a great tournament, but they also saw two of their teammates get to the top of the mountain, so I think that kind of motivates you.”
The improved Bokinas both won their bouts Wednesday in Mattituck’s 44-34 non-league loss at Mount Sinai High School. Jack, who is making a bid for a fifth trip to the state tournament, pinned Yusuf Azeem 52 seconds into their match at 145 pounds to remain undefeated at 27-0. That brought Jack’s career record to 189-41. Luke, meanwhile, didn’t need to wrestle beyond the first period since his opponent at 132 pounds, Joe O’Brien, withdrew because of injury. That made Luke 25-2 on the season and 176-42 for his career.
Another set of Mattituck senior twins, Sean and Brian Feeney, picked up wins on pins. Sean, wrestling at 99 pounds, stopped Brendan Goodrich at 3:36. Brian put an end to his contest at 106 by downing Jack Tyrell at 1:53.
Also winning for Mattituck were Tim Davis (6-0 over Joe Sabella at 113), Ethan Schmidt (4-3 over Vin Valente at 152) and Colby Suglia (11-2 over Adam Shaja at 170).
Mount Sinai had five pins: Mike O’Brien (120) beat Ethan Prager at 5:26; Joe Goodrich (160) defeated David Jenkins at 1:42; Antonio Palmiotto (182) put an end to his bout against Donovan Sanchez at 1:33; Mike Sabella (195) finished Justin McKinney at 1:26; and Jake Croston (220) topped Tyler Marlborough in 45 seconds.
The Mustangs also received wins by Matt Campo (12-4 over Stephen Masotti at 126) and Mike Zarif (25-11 over Justin Lake at 138).
Mattituck faced a tall order against coach Matt Armstrong’s Mount Sinai team, the League VII champion.
“Tonight we wrestled a really good team and they’re probably a top five, top six team in the entire county,” said Dolson, whose team was the League VIII runner-up at 3-1. “I don’t like the result because we lost … but I thought the effort was there, you know what I mean? So, I was happy with the effort, not happy with the result.”
Jack Bokina said he welcomes tough competition. As he sees it, good competition helps him get to where he wants to be.
“That just makes you push harder,” he said. “You just got to know there’s always someone better. You got to keep working hard. You got to keep training to become that better person.”
That approach may help the Bokinas get that bittersweet taste out of their mouths.
Photo caption: Mattituck/Greenport/Southold’s Jack Bokina pinned Mount Sinai’s Yusuf Azeem in 52 seconds to remain undefeated at 27-0. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)