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State wrestling tournament preview
The New York State Public High School State tournament starts Friday in Albany. By Saturday evening, 15 wrestlers will be crowned state champions.
10 Long Island wrestlers stood at the top of the podium last season, with four returning to defend their championships this year, including two of the most decorated grapplers to ever step on the mat on Long Island.
Here are some wrestlers to watch this weekend:
Nick Piccininni, Junior, Ward Melville, 120: Piccininni is one of the top wrestlers in the country at 120 pounds and is hunting for his third straight state championship. The junior has not lost a match since eighth grade, when he finished third in the state tournament. The top seed at 120 pounds, Piccininni defeated Jesse Dellavecchia of East Islip 8-0 in the Suffolk finals. Dellavecchia is seeded second in the 120 pound bracket.
Corey Rasheed, Senior, Longwood, 160: Another mainstay at the state tournament, Rasheed is the defending champion at 152 pounds and is looking to place for the fifth time in his high school career. Rasheed, who is also on the national radar and regarded as one of the best in the country, has been a machine the last two years, using his length and technical skills to pin nearly all comers. He won the Suffolk title over Matt Porrello of Glenn in 41 seconds and pinned all four of his opponents at the Suffolk tournament in a combined 2:12, a record in the 75-year history of the tournament.
Louis Hernandez, Senior, Mepham, 152: Hernandez is looking to cap his senior season with a second straight title. The defending champ at 145 pounds, Hernandez has only lost one match this season and that was due to a disqualification after an illegal slam in the prestigious Eastern States tournament. Hernandez was still able to wrestle back and take third place. Hernandez defeated Wantagh's Nick Vines 14-4 in the Nassau finals.
Kyle Quinn, Junior, Wantagh, 106: Quinn, along with Vines, were the leaders of a Wantagh team that many overlooked entering the season after graduating a few top guys. But like his team, Quinn put together a great season, finishing 41-3 and earning a wildcard spot into the state tournament. The defending champion at 106 pounds, Quinn is seeded second in the 113 pound bracket. The biggest obstacle standing in front of Quinn is Syosset freshman Vito Arujau, the top seed at 113. All three of Quinn's loses have come to Arujau, including a 4-1 decision in the Nassau County finals.
Vito Arujau, Freshman, Syosset, 113: You can't get any closer to a state championship without winning one then Arujau did in 2013. As an eighth grader he lost in the ultimate tie breaker in the state title match. Arujau hasn't lost since and is the top seed in the 113 pound bracket.
Travis Passaro, Senior, Eastport-South Manor, 126: Passaro finished third in the state at 120 pounds in 2013 and is the favorite at 126 this season. Passaro has had a great year, capturing an Eastern States title and bringing a 46-0 record with him upstate. Across the bracket from Passaro is second seeded Alex Delacruz of Ossining, the defending state champion at 120 pounds. Passaro defeated Delacruz 5-3 earlier in the year at the Eastern States tournament.
Chris Mauriello, Sophomore, Hauppauge, 132: Mauriello got a taste of the state tournament as a freshman after gaining a wild-card berth in 2013. Now Mauriello's goals are even grander as he enters as the top seed. Mauriello defeated Brad Wade of Islip 8-2 in the Suffolk final.
Steven Schneider, Senior, MacArthur, 170: Another Long Island wrestler who fell just short of a state championship in 2013, Schneider is back as the favorite at 170 pounds. Schneider defeated both the No. 2 seed Jake Weber of Clarence and No. 3 seed Jake Ashcraft of Burnt Hills by major decision earlier this season.
James O'Hagan, Senior, Seaford, 285: O'Hagan finished third in the 2013 state tournament after running into the buzz saw that was Michael Hughes of Smithtown West. O'Hagan has only lost three matches in the last two seasons -- two of them to Hughes -- and is the odds on favorite to be standing on the top of the podium Saturday night in Albany.
Matteo DeVincenzo, Sophomore, Port Jefferson, 106: Long Island is still looking to crown its first D-II state champion, and DeVincenzo has a strong chance to be that wrestler after finishing second in the state at 99 pounds in 2013. The Port Jeff standout was dominant in the Suffolk final, securing a 15-0 tech fall in the first period.
Nick Cassella, Junior, Locust Valley, 120: Cassella also came within one match of a state title in 2013. Along with teammate Sam Ward, Cassella was one of two Locust Valley wrestlers to place in the state this year. Cassella has tested himself against top competition this season and finished second in the Eastern States, falling to Piccininni in the finals.