Two Mattituck/Greenport/Southold high school wrestlers are going big time.
The pride of the Tuckers, seniors James Hoeg and Tanner Zagarino, who this past season became the first state champions in Mattituck history, will both wrestle for top NCAA Division I teams next season. The two training partners will not be far from each other, either. They are both headed to the state of Pennsylvania. Hoeg has committed to national champion Penn State while Zagarino made Pitt his choice on Sunday.
“It’s super impressive,” Mattituck coach Cory Dolson said. He added, “They’re not only going to Division I, but they’re going to high-level Division I, which is even more impressive.”
For the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Hoeg, joining the Nittany Lions will be the culmination of a dream. “Penn State has always been one of my favorite wrestling teams since I was little,” he said. “The dream was always, go to Penn State and get as good as you can get.”
Zagarino, 6-2, 205, said he weighed his college options carefully, but Pitt “was almost like a no-brainer the whole time.” He said, “I love the guys over there, and Pennsylvania wrestling … is just like the biggest wrestling community in the world.”
The two seniors are coming off dream seasons. Hoeg won the state Division II championship at 195 pounds and Zagarino grabbed the 220-pound state crown minutes later at Times Union Center in Albany. Hoeg finished the season with a 51-2 record and was 206-23 for his high school career. Zagarino’s 41-4 season capped off a 146-25 career with Mattituck.
“They really stepped their game up when it mattered most and they had unbelievable seasons,” said Dolson.
The two Tuckers have each other to thank, in part, for their success. For the past couple of seasons they butted heads daily in the Mattituck wrestling room, making each other better. The technical Hoeg and the explosive Zagarino have contrasting styles.
“Iron sharpens iron, right?” Dolson said. “So, you got two guys who are going after state titles wrestling every single day for the last probably two years, wrestling together every single day, making each other better. So, they’re very, very lucky that they had each other. There were definitely some fun days in there, especially when they were in bad moods. Those were the best days.”
While acknowledging that it could get dull at times, wrestling against the same training partner, Zagarino said Hoeg played a role in his state title. “Without James I know I couldn’t have done it,” he said.
“I’m not done wrestling,” Zagarino said. “I know I haven’t peaked. I know I can be so much better than I am now.”
Hoeg will not get a summer vacation. He will leave for Penn State on June 28, three days after high school graduation, for training and classes. He said, “It’s going to be tough leaving here and leaving our team behind, but there’s another team to be a part of.”
Photo caption: Mattituck High School seniors James Hoeg (Penn State), left, and Tanner Zagarino (Pitt) will both wrestle for high-level NCAA Division I teams in the state of Pennsylvania. (Credit: Bob Liepa)