Step onto the mat with Newsday's high school writers as they cover Long Island wrestling.
Starlin Jimenez: 1982-2010
Below is a retrospective of former Brentwood wrestler Starlin Jimenez (pictured), who was killed in a motorcycle accident last week...
In the wrestling community, it's difficult to fly under the radar. So when a scrawny Brentwood sophomore dominated a prominent Nassau wrestler at an offseason tournament in the summer of 1997, the questions came rapid fire.
"What did that kid place in the counties? What grade is he in? Where did he come from?" former Brentwood coach Bob Panariello recalled being asked by fellow coaches about his star pupil, Starlin Jimenez.
It was exactly the way the reserved Jimenez wanted it.
After amassing an 87-10 high school record, three League I titles, two county finals appearances, and a Suffolk title and third-place finish in the state his junior year, everyone knew about the 112-pounder.
But now the wrestling community that took such joy from Jimenez's achievements is coping with his death at age 28.
On Wednesday, Jimenez was riding his motorcycle on his way home from his girlfriend's home in Medford when he collided with a pickup truck on North Ocean Avenue. He was pronounced dead a half-hour later.
"He was just one of those special, special kids that don't come around too often," said current Brentwood coach Ralph Napolitano, who was an assistant when Jimenez was in high school. "It's a terrible tragedy."
Added Panariello: "It was something that was a shock when we heard about it, and I'm still having trouble talking about it."
Jimenez became interested in wrestling through his friends, and finally came out for the team in eighth grade. He caught Panariello's attention while wrestling with the freshman squad, and quickly became a coach's favorite because of his no-nonsense approach and dedication.
"He was one of those kids that I gravitated towards," Panariello said. "We bonded together. He never really said much, but he had a little smile that you knew what he was thinking about."
Jimenez took that attitude with him to Nassau CC, where he ended up for the 2003-04 season after a scholarship at Clarion University in Pennsylvania fell through. In his one season at Nassau, Jimenez became an All-American.
"He was just a kid who wanted to come to school and then go to practice," said Nassau CC coach Paul Schmidt. "He was all business."
Jimenez was the youngest of four children - he is survived by two brothers, Francisco (age 35) and Victor (32), and a sister, Anna (36) - who were raised by a single mother, Carrasco. Money was tight (the family moved so often that Starlin attended three of the four middle schools in the Brentwood district), and Carrasco rarely attended her son's matches because she was working. Carrasco said there was no shortage of love in the family.
"Though Starlin didn't come from money, he came from a lot of love," Carrasco Jimenez said through translator Tony Negron, the Brentwood Kid Wrestling coach and a mentor of many Brentwood athletes, including Jimenez. "It made me feel good because that's what he loved to do. Whatever he loved to do is what made me happy.
"And I knew he was safe," she continued. "I knew he had a lot of friends, and that they were good friends."
Included in that group of close friends was Casey Beach, who graduated with Jimenez and is an assistant at Brentwood. Beach used to invite Jimenez to practices, and the two often rode together on their motorcycles as a way to keep in touch. Beach said Jimenez was always very careful on his bike, and never reckless.
But on Wednesday, Jimenez was alone as he set out for home from his girlfriend Alyssa Swift's house.
Said Swift: "He will be missed by many people."
That was a sentiment echoed by Brentwood athletic director Kevin O'Reilly. "As a county champ, he was held to a high regard on our program," O'Reilly said. "He was just a great kid, turned into a great adult. It was a great loss for us, his family and the community."