Mattituck wrestler Felakos makes impact at state tourney

He didn’t win a title or earn all-state honors at the New York State Public High School Athletic Association wrestling tournament, but Mattituck’s James Felakos felt that he had achieved an important objective.

Felakos won two matches in the 190-pound weight class in Division II (small schools) at the MVP Arena in Albany last weekend, advancing further than he had during his first appearance in 2022.

“It was good to achieve my goal from there,” he said. “I did better than my first time. I enjoyed it.”

Felakos, a junior, wanted to win at least one match. As a freshman in 2022, he lost both bouts on opening day.

“He should be proud of where he’s at,” Mattituck/Greenport/Southold wrestling coach Nic Fioretti said. “He met his goal. After he won his first match, he said to move the goalpost. His next goal is to be all-state. Although he didn’t meet that goal, he’s very much aware that he is capable of getting the job done.

“He’s a great kid, a great wrestler. I couldn’t be more proud of him. He deserves everything he gets.”

When Felakos was a freshman in 2022, there was a certain wow factor in grappling with the state’s best.

Two years older and wiser this time around, Felakos was more comfortable and confident.

“I wasn’t nearly as apprehensive about it,” he said. “I was a little more calm. I wasn’t thinking about the matches nearly as much. I’m a better wrestler than I was, seeded quite a bit higher. I was like the dead last seed my first time.”

Felakos was seeded 13th this year among the 22 wrestlers at 190 pounds.

In the first match Friday, he pinned 20th-seeded sophomore Marcus Rosario of Clarke H.S. (Nassau County) in 45 seconds.

He lost in the next round by a technical fall, 16-0, to fourth-seeded senior Mason McCombs (Windsor).

“He is a very good wrestler, very strong,” Felakos said. “That was my first time ever getting ‘teched’ in a match. That was the first but that’s not the thing you want.”

That defeat knocked the 6-foot-2 Felakos into the consolation round. He was out of the running to win his weight class, but was still in contention for all-state recognition (a top eight finish) if he continued winning.

In his third match, Felakos pinned 12th-seeded junior Logan McGuire (Maine-Endwell) in 1:29, earning an opportunity to wrestle again on Saturday.

Felakos called that win his most memorable moment of the competition.

“That was big to get to the second day, because I’d only been there on the first day before,” he said.

“That felt like a bonus match to me because it was already past the goal I’d set. I was just happy to get to wrestle a little bit more.”

Felakos’ all-state dreams ended in his fourth match, as he was pinned by sixth-seeded senior Malachi Smith (Byron-Bergen) in three minutes.

Needless to say, Felakos said that he wants to make a third appearance in Albany in 2025. As a senior, he could be one of the top ranked Suffolk County wrestlers entering next year.

“Now there’s a target on my back for next year and that’s just fine,” he said. “I have to keep working this offseason and get to the point where I can defend the (county) title and hopefully, be all-state or do better at states. There are a couple of very strong kids in my weight class that have graduated. I don’t know if I’ll be 215 or 190 again next year, but there’s going to be new competition at the weight class.”

Fioretti was impressed by how Felakos improved this season.

“He has been relatively consistent,” he said. “His top wrestling has improved drastically. He improved with different techniques that he hasn’t used in the past. He has diversified his offense in the top position. That makes him a dangerous wrestler. It means that he’s never out of the battle.”

The wrestling season might be over, but Felakos isn’t quite finished with sports this school year. He will play with the Mattituck baseball team this spring.

Felakos, who is also a member of the Greenport/Southold/Mattituck football team, catches and plays outfield.

“Baseball, in some ways, is a more difficult sport, but not nearly as tough physically,” he said. “I feel fine to play.”