Up-and-coming underclassmen on the Mattituck/Greenport/Southold high school wrestling team have an opportunity that young Tuckers in similar situations didn’t have in recent years.
Over the past handful of years, Mattituck was so deep in talent that younger wrestlers wouldn’t even be able to get a sniff of a place in a starting lineup that essentially wrote itself. Good wrestlers — seniors included — were backups.
That has changed. Now there are openings to be competed for.
“We have a lot of areas, a lot of question marks, a lot of inexperience as far as mat time goes,” said coach Cory Dolson.
That may sound strange, considering that Mattituck (24-4 last season) has won five straight Suffolk County Division II championships, five successive league titles and was recognized for the second year in a row as the top Division II team in the state by the New York State Sportswriters Association.
The 2016-17 season saw tremendous team and individual success. Mattituck’s first two state champions were crowned last season: James Hoeg (206-23 career record) and Tanner Zagarino (146-25). Eight Tuckers won county crowns and four advanced to the state finals.
Mattituck’s dual-meet record over the past five seasons is 100-21.
That’s a tough act to follow.
“We went on a nice little run,” Dolson said. “We had basically a five-year run. Some of these kids do not know what it’s like to not be on a championship team.”
But Mattituck’s winningest all-time wrestler, Hoeg, and Zagarino are among the 13 wrestlers — including 11 starters — who have graduated.
“I think your goals have to change, but I think your expectations have to remain high,” Dolson said. “We preach to the kids, attitude and effort.”
The two remaining state finalists, twins Jack Bokina (51-6 last season, 162-41 for his career) and Luke Bokina (50-7, 151-40), are back for their senior season. Jack was a state runner-up at 126 pounds after taking fourth in the state the year before. He will wrestle at 145 or 152 pounds this season. Luke, who was second in the state at 120 pounds, is expected to wrestle at 132 or 138. He was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler at the county tournament after grabbing his second county title.
Both Bokinas are seen as candidates for state titles.
“Any kid that can get to the state finals is going to be one of the guys in the running,” Dolson said. “At the state level, there are studs every year.”
Mattituck has another set of twins in seniors Sean (99) and Brian Feeney (106). Sean Feeney made All-County.
Stephen Masotti (126, 132), a senior, was All-County the last two seasons. Also offering valued experience are seniors Justin Lake (132, 138) and Jeremy Salazar (126, 132), juniors Jacob Theodorou (120, 126) and Ben Webb (138, 145) and sophomores Ethan Schmidt (152, 160), Colby Suglia (182, 195) and Tyler Marlborough (220).
The Tuckers, who have won 36 straight league dual meets, have been dropped down from League VII to League VIII, where they will contend with Center Moriches and Port Jefferson.
“When you’re surrounded by winning and it’s all you know, you’re supposed to win,” Dolson said. “I think for the most part, the kids are going to expect to win. We’re going to do everything we can to come in every day and get better.”
As for those memorable past five seasons, Dolson said: “It’s been a great, great ride with these guys and it was awesome. Now, can we press the right buttons and try to get it going again?”
Time will tell.
Photo caption: Mattituck/Greenport/Southold senior Jack Bokina (51-6 last season, 162-41 for his career) placed second and fourth in the state tournament the last two seasons. (Credit: Garret Meade, file)