ALBANY — There’s never an easy road through any bracket of the New York State Wrestling Championships. Division I. Division II. Doesn’t matter.
The three Mattituck/Greenport wrestlers who won county titles to advance to last weekend’s state tournament at Times Union Center in Albany can certainly attest to that. All three Tuckers saw their first run through the state tournament come to an end after one day Friday as they posted a combined 2-6 record.
Seniors Jeff Strider (145 pounds) and Brandon Lake (189) both lost in the first round to wrestlers that went on to win the state title in their respective weight classes. Sophomore Tomasz Filipowski lost in the first round to a wrestler who placed fifth at 160.
It didn’t take long for them to see up close the best New York has to offer.
“They went up there and they battled,” said Mattituck/Greenport Coach Cory Dolson. “That’s all you can ask for.”
Strider and Filipowski came within one victory of advancing to the second day of the tournament. After losing their first matches, both came back to win a wrestleback.
Strider (31-8) opened with a 15-0 technical fall loss to Ben Haas of Salamanca. Haas cruised to the state title with wins of 19-5, 12-7 and 9-2. Strider then defeated Xavier Thomas of Eagle Academy, 6-0, in a wrestleback. In his next match he lost a tight match, 1-0, to Conor Kleitz of Chenango Valley.
Filipowski (29-4) suffered a similar fate. After losing by an 8-0 major decision in the first round to Jerrold Roosa of Randolph, he bounced back with a 10-6 victory over Peter Ferrante of New Paltz. Then he lost by one point, 5-4, to Shaquille Charles of Ardsley.
Lake (30-8) lost an 18-1 technical fall to Nick Lalone of Cato-Meridian and then, 7-6, to Kris Folsom of Ogdensburg.
With Filipowski having two more years of wrestling ahead of him, reaching the state tournament and getting a taste of what it’s like should bode well for his future.
“He’s one point away from making it to the second day and he’s only a 10th grader at 160 pounds,” Dolson said. “The upside for him was tremendous.”
Looking ahead, Dolson said Filipowski could come back even bigger next year, which would benefit him because of his athleticism.
“The higher weight class he gets I think will affect him positively,” Dolson said. “The higher you go I think the athleticism for the most part dwindles a little. I’m hoping he gets a little bigger, a little stronger.”
For Strider and Lake the state tournament marked the end of their high school wrestling careers. Both joined the varsity as freshmen and spent the last three years as starters in the lineup.
Both wrestlers made huge strides on the mat through their careers, Dolson said.
“When [Lake] was a ninth grader, if somebody would have told me he was going to have 30 wins and win Division II and go upstate, I don’t know if I would have believed them,” he said. “He’s the kind of kid who does anything you ask. Same with Jeff. Those kids are the reason you coach.”
Overall for Section XI, it wasn’t the best showing in Division II. For the second straight year Section XI did not have a wrestler place in the tournament. As a team Suffolk finished with 21 1/2 points for 10th place out of 12.
The overwhelming majority of schools in Suffolk County are in Division I, which makes it difficult for the few schools that make up Division II to have success against a much larger population in the rest of the state.
“I think we just got to keep working,” Dolson said. “We really got to figure something out because not placing anybody for two years in a row is not the way you want to represent Section XI.”
In Division I, Section XI won its third straight team title with 269 1/2 points, well ahead of second-place Section I, which had 199 1/2.
Section XI crowned five state champions in Division I, led by 119-pounder Nigel McNeil of Huntington. He capped off an undefeated season with his second straight state title.
Elwood/John Glenn posted the top team total among Division I schools from Section XI. The Knights tallied 63 points for third place. Shenendehowa of Section II collected 83 1/2 points to win the individual school team title.
For the Mattituck/Greenport wrestlers, the end of the season means already thinking about the next.
“We’ll sign some guys up for some spring clubs as well as we usually do a spring league where we wrestle like two meets a week,” Dolson said. “And we try to get them to some camps and stuff like that.”