Meet the 2013 Long Island wrestling state champions
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It was certainly a banner year for Long Island wrestling.
Wantagh, the state's dual meet champion, placed four wrestlers into the state tournament, including champion Kyle Quinn at 106 pounds. The Warriors also earned the team tournament crown with 83.5 points.
WANTAGH I 106 pounds
When challenged earlier in the season about his ability to win a state title, Quinn responded with a smile and said, "We'll see . . . we'll see who's the last man standing.'' He held true to his belief that he could be the last man standing. Quinn won two bouts by fall and had two decisions, including a 7-1 win over Westhampton's Alex Tanzman, to earn the state title. The junior completed a 36-2 season with a solid defense and timely takedowns. He defeated four opponents and never allowed a takedown in the tournament. "He's pound for pound the toughest guy in the tournament," Wantagh coach Paul Gillespie said. "This is one tough cookie. He worked so hard to be technically sound in the practice room and it certainly paid off.'' Quinn was a third-place finisher as a sophomore in Nassau.
WARD MELVILLE I 113 pounds
It was a season of perfection for Piccininni. The Ward Melville sophomore pounded his way through the Long Island competition and into the state championships, where he earned his second title and was named Most Outstanding Wrestler. Piccininni finished 43-0 after he defeated two-time defending state champion Kyle Kelly of Chenango Forks, 14-4. "My goals go beyond this season,'' Piccininni said. "I have to focus on one match at a time, but the goal is to win four straight state championships.'' Piccininni would like to become only the second Long Island wrestler to win four state crowns. Shoreham-Wading River's Jesse Jantzen did it from 1997-2000. "He was a great role model for wrestlers,'' Piccininni said. "He had a great work ethic and was an outstanding competitor. I want to compete like he did.'' Piccininni is on a 90-match win streak, his last loss coming to Kelly in the state semifinal round in the eighth grade. He has a 142-3 career record.
SWR I 126 pounds
The two-time wild-card entrant earned the state title in spectacular fashion. Fabian, who didn't win the Suffolk title, was so impressive during the season that the state committee awarded him the top seed at 126. The Shoreham-Wading River senior didn't disappoint, winning four bouts convincingly, including two by fall. He won his first two bouts, 10-0 and 7-0. He pinned Keanu Thompson of Grand Street Campus in 5:51 for the crown. "He made the most of an opportunity to be a wild card,'' said Shoreham-Wading River coach Joe Condon. "He had a tough loss in the county tournament and came to the state tournament with a vengeance. He was unstoppable -- a man on a mission.'' Fabian, a three-time All-Suffolk wrestler, set a school record for wins finishing the season at 51-1.
SAYVILLE I 132 pounds
The senior was physically too strong for his opponents, winning four straight on his way to the crown. Leshinger, the top seed at 132, edged Brandon Lapi of Amsterdam, 4-2, in the state final. Leshinger is the first state champion from Sayville since Peter Yozzo in 1983. "He wrestled well last year in the wrestleback rounds and came back and finished third,'' Sayville coach Gary Pesko said. "And this year there were no mistakes in the early rounds and he was on his way to the title.'' Leshinger finished the season 45-1. The two-time Suffolk champion and four-time All-County wrestler punctuated his high school career as only the second one in Sayville history to place at the state tournament twice.
MEPHAM I 145 pounds
The junior needed a third-period takedown in the waning moments of the 145-pound championship to earn a 4-2 win over Eric Lewandowski of Lancaster. Hernandez, who relied on powerful takedowns and an ability to ride opponents and earn back points, had four wins by decision in the state tournament. "I was aggressive during the finals and [Lewandowski] was staying away from my big shots,'' Hernandez said. "I finally got him late in the third period because I kept after him. What a great feeling winning a state title.'' A two-time Nassau champion, Hernandez was the first Mepham wrestler to win the state title since 1984, when Anthony Arena won at 138 pounds. Hernandez set a single-season school record for wins, finishing 51-1.
LONGWOOD I 152 pounds
After finishing second three times, in the state meet, Rasheed finally earned a state title. The Longwood junior had two first-period pins at the state tournament, including one in 56 seconds over Great Neck South's Chris Koo for the crown. It was the fastest pin of the championship round. A large cheering section for Rasheed didn't even get its money's worth in the final as he caught the previously undefeated Koo by surprise and cradled him for the quick pin. "It's been a long time coming for me,'' Rasheed said. He has a 173-15 record and is the 11th state champion from Longwood.
HILLS WEST I 160 pounds
There was never a thought of losing again in the state final for Grimaldi. "I wanted to be my school's first state champion and nothing was going to stop me,'' he said. "This is my year and you had to believe that all the hard work would pay off.'' There was never a doubt at the state tourney that Grimaldi was the heavy favorite. The top-seeded senior, who is Harvard-bound, defeated Steve Schneider of MacArthur, 9-3, in the 160-pound title bout. He was the first wrestler from Half Hollow Hills West to reach the state final -- and he did it twice. "I lost in the state final as a junior and it was always on my mind,'' Grimaldi said. "I couldn't wait to get back here.'' The three-time All-Suffolk wrestler finished his senior season at 45-1 and was 94-3 over the past two years.
BRENTWOOD I 170 pounds
One of Long Island's top three-sport athletes proved his mettle at the state championships. Toribio avenged his only loss of the season in the Suffolk final with a 10-5 win over Joe Piccolo of Half Hollow Hills West. He battled through the 170-pound class, edging St. Anthony's John Vrasidas, 4-3, in the final. An excited Toribio jumped from the mat and celebrated with family and friends. "If anyone deserves to win a state championship, it's Carlos,'' said Brentwood coach Ralph Napolitano. "He came back from a horrible injury and pounded his way to win. That high ankle sprain would have stopped a lot of guys from continuing the season.'' Toribio finished with a 43-1 record and became Brentwood's first state champ since 2004.
SYOSSET I 195 pounds
The senior grabbed the attention of those who watched his quarterfinal win over top-seeded Reggie Williams of Johnson City. It was Choi's quickness and outstanding work from the neutral position that helped him dominate Williams, 14-4. Choi won four straight bouts by decision, including a 7-3 win over Levi Ashley of Shenendehowa in the final. Choi became the first Long Islander of Korean descent to capture the state championship. "I felt like it was my speed on my feet that was the difference in this tournament,'' Choi said. "My coaches really had me prepared for each opponent.'' Choi, who finished third in Nassau a year ago, completed a 47-2 season.
SMITHTOWN W. I 285 pounds
Hughes, a humble wrestler, with a terrific skill set, pinned his way through the heavyweight division all season. He won four bouts at the state tournament, including two by pin. His pin of Austin Coleman of Spencerport in 2:30 capped a 42-0 season. Hughes had 31 pins, eight wins by forfeit and only went the distance three times. He set a Suffolk tournament record when he recorded four pins in a total of 2:23, the fastest in the 74-year history of the sectional. "You can't say enough about the kid,'' said Smithtown West coach Ken Leverich. "He had everyone in his support group. He triumphed over everything thrown his way.'' Hughes was the first state wrestling champion from Smithtown West.