Colby Suglia and Ethan Schmidt have both been to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Wrestling Championships before — as spectators.
This time was different. This time the two Mattituck High School juniors were participants. And, yes, it’s a lot different when you’re on the mat, grappling with the best wrestlers in the state, nearly all of whom are sectional champions.
What did Suglia learn from the experience at Times Union Center in Albany?
“You got to bring it,” he said. “You can’t be afraid of these kids. Go against them with what you got.”
All out, all the time was the approach that was needed. It helped Suglia go 2-2 while Schmidt went 1-2 in Division II Friday. Neither made it to the second day.
The state tournament is quite a show. “It’s just very different [from] any tournament you’re in the whole year,” Mattituck/Greenport/Southold coach Cory Dolson said. “Everything from the warmup, the walk to the arena, the way they structure how you get on the mat, it’s just everything is very, very different from a normal tournament, even the county tournament. It’s not your run-of-the-mill wrestling tournament. It’s a much, much bigger scale in a much, much bigger place.”
And the talent on hand is remarkable. Suglia equated it to every match being akin to a county final.
Schmidt called it the most competitive tournament he has ever been involved in. “It’s great,” he said. “You just have to be ready.”
Suglia (39-9) had to be ready. His first bout at 220 pounds was an outbracket match against Lyndonville junior Mario Fidanza. Suglia trailed 2-1 in the first period before pinning Fidanza at 4 minutes, 56 seconds.
That set Suglia up in the Round of 16 against fourth-seeded Clarke junior Karl Osmono Bouyer, a 6-2 winner.
Dropping into the wrestlebacks, Suglia pinned Petrides junior Ervis Spahiu at 3:18 before losing to the No. 6 seed, Sherburne Earlville junior Alex Thompson, by a 5-1 decision.
“I think I had a good season,” Suglia said. “I was happy with it. I wish I could have ended it a little bit better, but I was not too disappointed in it. I think I can do a lot better, though.”
Dolson said: “I think he was competitive with every kid he wrestled. There wasn’t a kid he wrestled that I didn’t necessarily think he couldn’t beat. He had a taste of some success, and I think it will do a lot for his confidence going into next year.”
Schmidt (35-14), meanwhile, had a tough break, being drawn in the first round against the top seed and eventual champion at 170 pounds, Saranac senior Jacob Nolan (43-4). Nolan pinned him in 49 seconds.
“He’s the all-time wins leader in Section VII,” Dolson said of Nolan. “He’s a really tough kid. That was a tough draw.”
But Schmidt bounced back in his next bout, an 11-3 major decision over Eldred-Liberty-Sullivan senior Cesar Santiago. Then Schmidt’s tournament ended with an 8-1 loss to seventh-seeded Cam Bundy, a sophomore from Owego Free Academy.
“I didn’t get a good spot in the bracket,” Schmidt said. “I got the top seed the first match. It didn’t go very well, but [in] the second match I cleared the first match out of my mind. I went into the second match knowing that I had to win, and I got the job done.”
Mattituck has sent wrestlers to the state tournament every year since at least 2007, said Dolson. The fact that Suglia and Schmidt have wrestled some of the state’s best only bodes well for them next season.
“It’s an important step because it’s hard to go up there,” Dolson said. “Traditionally, the guys that we have that have done well up there, they don’t necessarily do well up there their first year, you know what I mean? So, it’s about kind of going through the process of being there for the first time and getting used to it, so I think it was imperative that they got up there this year to get that experience to prepare for next year.”
“I’m just proud of these guys,” he continued. “They had an awesome year and it was a big step up for both of them from their 10th-grade year and I think they’re just moving in the right direction.”
Schmidt believes this state experience will help next season.
“Now we know that we can beat top guys and we shouldn’t be afraid of anyone in our division,” he said. “Yeah, it was fun. It didn’t end as planned, but next year we’re going to go up there and get the job done and get on the podium.”
Photo caption: Mattituck/Greenport/Southold’s Colby Suglia pinned Petrides junior Ervis Spahiu at 3:18 in the wrestlebacks Friday at Times Union Center in Albany. (Credit: Jim Franco)