WM's Nick Piccininni wins title, shoots for greatness
Gregg SarraGregg Sarra
Gregg Sarra is Newsday's high school sports columnist and writer.
The adrenalin started to flow right about the 113-pound final and you could see Ward Melville junior Nick Piccininni getting loose behind the bench. The two-time state champion was on the verge of a third straight state wrestling title and the anxiety and the pressure were building.
Only two wrestlers in the history of Suffolk County high school wrestling have won three or more state championships in the 52 years of the New York State Wrestling Championships. Only three have won three state titles in Nassau's long-standing tradition.
Shoreham-Wading River's Jesse Jantzen is the lone four-time state champion. Piccininni wants to be like Jesse. And he has a legitimate shot.
Piccininni won last night's 120-pound final, and another state title in his senior year of 2015 would match Jantzen and what some once thought to be an unreachable milestone for a Long Island wrestler.
"No one thought anyone could duplicate the accomplishments of the great Jesse Jantzen," said Ward Melville coach Bill DeSario. "And Nick is well aware of Jantzen and you would think it should get easier for him, but it doesn't. He's a special kid and we have to make sure he doesn't overwork himself."
Piccininni was one of four Long Island wrestlers looking to add another state crown to their resumes. He went out against Suffolk rival Jesse Dellavecchia of East Islip and produced a third straight crown. He beat Dellavecchia, 3-0, in a rematch of the Suffolk title bout.
Piccininni used a second period escape and two near fall points in the third for the win.
"He's a great competitor," said Piccininni, who ran his win streak to 133. "It's harder when you wrestle someone that knows you so well. It's better because I know his strengths, but it's worse because he knows my weaknesses." It was the third time Piccininni beat Dellavecchia (41-6) this season.
There was familiarity in the 113-pound final also as 2013 state runner-up Vito Arujau of Syosset and defending state champion Kyle Quinn of Wantagh squared off for the title. The two had met three times previously this season with Arujau giving Quinn his only three losses of the season -- all by a three-point margin.
"It's always a brawl," Arujau said. "We get after each other. He won a state title last year. I wanted mine."
Arujau (44-0), a freshman, beat Quinn for the fourth straight time, 4-1, to capture the 113-pound crown. Quinn finished the season at 43-4.
Mepham's Louis Hernandez won his second consecutive state title when he out-slicked Anthony Deprez of Hilton, 8-4, at 152 pounds. He finished 147-14 in his four-year varsity-career.
Longwood's Shakur Rasheed also won his second straight state crown. Rasheed, who earlier announced that he accepted a scholarship to attend Penn State, put on a clinic in the 160-pound final. He pounded Angelo Kress of Columbia for the 13-0 win.
"I've battled through injuries this season," Rasheed said. "Nothing is ever a guarantee. You have to do the work to continue to win the championships."