Wrestling in a 4,000-seat arena like the one at Stony Brook University can be a thrilling experience for high school wrestlers. Competing at the 15,000-seat Times Union Center in Albany is something all to itself.
Two Mattituck/Greenport wrestlers will get their first taste of what it’s like to compete on the big stage beginning Friday in the Division II state championships. And for junior Tomasz Filipkowski, it will be a return visit to the championship.
Mattituck coach Cory Dolson said wrestling at the state championships for the first time can be an overwhelming experience at first.
“Some of them get a little wide-eyed,” he said. “You try to tell them it’s a wrestling match and it’s not any different than any match they wrestled all year.”
Eighth-grader Lucas Webb won the county title at 99 pounds to earn a trip upstate. He will wrestle Luis Weirbach, a sophomore from Hoosick Falls, in the first round. Junior Chris Baglivi won the 195-pound county title and will wrestle Ben Perry, a senior from Saranac.
Dolson said the wrestlers have to go into the tournament not worried about who they will be wrestling or where they are in the bracket. And while they may not be expected to compete for the title, each wrestler has to expect to win.
“You have to go up there with the mind-set that you’re going to be able to get on the podium,” Dolson said.
Filipkowski, who went 1-2 in the tournament last year, has the best chance to advance through the bracket at 170. It won’t be easy. His first round opponent, Trey Seymour of Peru, is 37-0. And he’s not one of the four returning all-state wrestlers who are scattered around the 170 bracket.
“He’s got a really tough weight,” Dolson said.
Still, the expectation for Filipkowski will be to get on the podium with a top-six finish, which would make him an all-state wrestler.
Mattituck hasn’t had an all-state finisher since Louis Troisi placed third in 2007.
“The expectation is to get on the podium,” Dolson said.
To prepare for the tournament the wrestlers have been practicing with the other county champions from Suffolk County at Bayport-Blue Point, the Division II team winner. They also spent some time at Brentwood with the Division I wrestlers.
“The D-I guys are some of the best in the state,” Dolson said.
Historically, Section XI hasn’t fared very well at the state tournament in Division II. Many of the schools upstate have lower enrollments and qualify as Division II. But in Section XI, all but a handful of schools are Division I.
“Upstate the D-II tournament is no joke,” Dolson said.
The tournament begins 10 a.m. Friday and the quarterfinals start at 2 p.m. The wrestlers will arrive Thursday and have a practice in the afternoon at the arena.