Exciting reversal: Suffolk's decision to introduce dual-meet championship a big win

Connetquot's Chris Beal looks to roll over Sachem Connetquot's Chris Beal looks to roll over Sachem North's Ken Oberleis for the pin in the 182 Ib. weight class. (Jan. 10, 2014) Photo Credit: George A. Faella

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Gregg Sarra Newsday Columnist Gregg Sarra

Gregg Sarra is Newsday's high school sports columnist and writer. ...

Like a painter who puts a brush to canvas, every time a wrestler steps on the mat he is putting his personal touch to a bout. Wrestling is as much about courage as it is about strength.

In the most demanding of individual high school sports, you have no one but yourself to rely on. Wrestlers take on the burden of having physical skill and the highest of degrees of mental toughness to persevere. Strategic plan, countermove ability and well-timed offensive moves lead to success.

Now, Suffolk wrestlers will have the added delight of helping their school win a countywide dual meet championship, starting next season.

The individual goals are no longer the only focus. Suffolk is going to experience what Nassau has since 1979 -- they're adding a dual-meet championship event. The pressure to win an individual title is enormous. Imagine the pressure to win the first Suffolk title for your school.

It could go like this: score tied, final bout of the dual meet, two competitors step on the mat. They're wrestling for so much more than themselves. It's now about their school.

"The motion to add a dual-meet championship passed the tournament committee vote with more than 90 percent of the coaches voting in favor of the proposal," said Bob Panariello, the Suffolk wrestling chairman. "We're awaiting the approval of the executive council of Section XI. Now you can also wrestle for team glory."

Coaches are indeed excited about the event. Panariello said the coaches agreed on a format that would bring another level of excitement to the wrestling community. "Everyone will circle this event on the calendar," Panariello said. "Look at the success and the interest in the county individual tournament over all these years. Now we'll have the team element."

Suffolk's proposal is to hold a 16-team event before the seven individual league championships. The top two teams in each of the leagues, regardless of enrollment in Division I or II, and two at-large teams, selected by a seeding committee, would qualify for the tournament. Four rounds of wrestling would culminate with a title match at a neutral site.

Nassau started its dual meet championships in 1979 when Locust Valley beat Farmingdale in the first final. It was the first sectional dual-meet championship in the state. Since then, six other areas of the state, including the PSAL, have added the dual-meet championships.

If Friday night's Sachem North-Connetquot Suffolk II dual meet was an indication of what to expect, the new event will be a real treat. Those neighboring communities came out in full force to support their teams, creating an exciting atmosphere in a packed house in Bohemia.

"Every league has its rivalries and we'll see teams go at it that have never wrestled before," East Islip coach Guy Leggio said. "It's a sport all about the passion and the intensity. It's always personal."

The buzz in Bohemia had the Twitter universe rocking. Every move is now broadcast over social media and photos of each bout under the lamp were captured on Instagram. The spotlight at the center of the mat becomes the center of L.I.'s wrestling universe.

Every move by these athletes is analyzed and caught on video and in pictures for all to see in real time. You take the mat in any gym and you put it out there for all to see. It takes a special competitor to handle the pressure.

Panariello is sure Suffolk will approve the new addition to the dual-meet championship. He's also sure the atmosphere will be electric.

You can count on it.

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