This was all new for Diego Ramirez. The Brentwood senior was making his first appearance in the Suffolk wrestling tournament. With a 34-5 record and a second-place finish in League I, Ramirez wanted to make his name known on the county stage. But wrestling from an unseeded position is very difficult in the Suffolk tournament, arguably the toughest in the state.
Ramirez, however, caught the attention of the capacity crowd at the Indoor Sports Complex at Stony Brook University on Friday night in the quarterfinals of the county championships.
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Ramirez used an escape and a late double-leg takedown in the third period to upend top-seeded freshman Tom Dutton of Rocky Point, 8-4, at 132 pounds. It was a rare loss for Dutton, who fell to 45-2.
"He's an aggressive wrestler and I tried to keep him off my legs," Ramirez said. "When I first saw the brackets, my first thoughts were, 'Oh my, Dutton in the quarters, I have my work cut out for me.' But that's what happens when you come into the county tournament unseeded; every bout is going to be a really tough one."
Ramirez hit the first takedown of the bout, a single leg, before Dutton used a reversal and two near fall points for a 4-2 first-period lead.
"It was almost like he used a hip toss because he just overpowered me to my back," Ramirez said.
The Brentwood wrestler battled back in the second period, cutting the deficit to 4-3 after a penalty point to Dutton and taking a 5-4 lead on a near fall. In the third period, Ramirez escaped with 1:31 left for the 6-4 lead and got the double-leg takedown as time expired.
"It was the biggest win of my career," said Ramirez, who will meet Connetquot's Joe Gates in Saturday morning's semifinals. "It's another tough guy that I have to beat to get to the county title."
Rocky Point coach Darren Goldstein thought Ramirez wrestled well and said Dutton will gain from the experience.
"Our guy is a very talented ninth-grader and he made a few mistakes," Goldstein said. "He'll have a tough road back to place third but that also measures a wrestler. He can do it."
Dutton wasn't the only top- seeded wrestler to go down in the quarterfinals. Defending county champion Sean McCabe of Connetquot , the No. 1 seed at 120 pounds, lost a 3-2 decision to Sayville's Matt Leshinger.
Talk about a difficult ride to the county final, Leshinger moves into the semifinals against former state champion Mark West of Hauppauge, a 9-0 winner over BJ Jackson of Brentwood, in what most believe is the deepest weight class in the sectional tournament.
Hauppauge's Nick Mauriello, making a storybook comeback from severe illness (Lemierre's syndrome and MRSA) last season, which forced him to miss the county championship tournament, pinned Islip's John Theo in 5:00 and won a 13-4 major decision over Glenn's Tom Sewell to advance to the 132-pound semifinals against Patchogue-Medford's Eddie Gomez.
Brentwood led team scoring after the quarterfinals with 92 points and moved seven wrestlers into the semifinals. Connetquot was second with 72 points and had four wrestlers in the semis.