Huntington’s John Arceri has dealt with pressure and expectations for much of his young life.
“Since I was a youth wrestler I’ve had big shoes to fill,” Arceri said. “My father was a state wrestling champion and my uncle Gerard took third in the state. My cousin Gerard is one of the top lacrosse faceoff recruits in the country at Smithtown East and my sister was a three-time county diving champion and is successful at the NCAA level.”
The pressure mounted last Sunday night when the senior stepped onto the mat at the Suffolk County championships at Hofstra looking to become just the school’s first wrestler and the 10th in the 77-year history of the event to win four county titles.
Arceri, Newsday’s Athlete of the Week, reached his first benchmark of the season, defeating Hauppauge’s Ben Tepperman 3-2 in the 126-pound final. He won four matches in the tournament’s two days.
“Training with a multitude of outside clubs and strength trainers has really helped me but I still felt that pressure stepping on the mat knowing I could be the first Huntington wrestler ever to win four times,” Arceri said.
The pressure rose as Arceri found himself down 2-0 to Tepperman, a returning County finalist, after the first period. A quick escape at the beginning of the second and a takedown later in the period gave Arceri a 3-2 lead he would not relinquish.
“After the match I was just thinking about how few wrestlers were ever able to win this tournament four times,” Arceri said. “But I know that I still have one more tournament to win.”
The opportunity to fulfill his final goal comes Feb. 26-27 when Arceri tries to capture his second consecutive state title after earning the crown at 113 last season.
Arceri enters his final weekend of high school wrestling with a record of 192-33, which includes a perfect 41-0 mark this season.
“Last season’s title was a huge confidence boost for me,” he said. “It also has added more pressure though because now I have that bull’s-eye on my back.”