There was no better way for Dylan Ryder to prove himself.
The Half Hollow Hills West sophomore showed he was back at full strength after ACL surgery forced him to miss his first varsity season last year.
Coming in unseeded and competing against top wrestlers from six states, Ryder knocked off everyone in his way en route to the title at 99 pounds at the prestigious Eastern States Classic at Sullivan Community College in Loch Sheldrake on Jan. 15-16.
“I have been working really hard since I got cleared to start wrestling again,” Ryder said. “I know I needed to put in as much time as possible to get myself back to where I was before I had surgery.”
Ryder beat third-seeded Greg Diakomihalis of Hilton 3-2 in the final after a frantic finish that saw Ryder break a tie at 2 with an escape with 10 seconds remaining.
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“I was very confident going into the tournament but I knew how hard it would be,” Ryder said. “I was focused and determined to win.”
Ryder said that after he took out top seeded Preston Maucere of Deer Park 6-4 in the quarterfinals that he knew he had a real shot to win the whole thing.
“I wrestle so many good guys on my club team and on my high school team that prepared me for this tournament,” he said. “This give me a lot of confidence to make a run at states in February but I know I have to keep putting in hard work and stay focused.”
Ryder was one of seven Long Island wrestlers to win titles at Eastern States. Five of the other six already have state championships under their belts and Glenn’s Edwin Rubio, who won at 285, was a state finalist last year.
“It was a great feeling to win this tournament because I came so close last year and couldn’t complete it,” Ward Melville senior Christian Araneo, who won at 195, said.
Araneo took home the title after his finals opponent Nick Reenan of Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) had to default because of injury.
“It wasn’t the way I wanted to win it because I wanted to wrestle Reenan,” Araneo said. “But it was still a confidence booster to win even though I didn’t get the match I wanted.”
Matteo DeVincenzo of Port Jefferson won the 120-pound bracket and was named the “Champion of Champions.”
Reigning state champions Adam Busiello of Eastport-South Manor (106), Jacori Teemer of Long Beach (126) and Syosset’s Vito Arujau (132) also captured titles.