The century plateau once was considered the ultimate achievement for high school wrestlers. It's still an impressive accomplishment, but elite athletes set their sights even higher.
"Winning 100 matches is still the goal of every wrestler," Rocky Point coach Darren Goldstein said. "But now we have more of the top wrestlers getting opportunities at the varsity level at a younger age. And the milestones and expectations have changed."
The new milestone for today's wrestler is 200 wins. It takes longevity, skills developed at a young age and a little bit of luck. Wrestling is such a grueling sport, and every bout brings the potential for injury. The constant close contact between competitors also brings the possibility of illness. And missing any substantial time would make reaching the lofty plateau almost impossible.
"The 40-win season for the elite wrestler is more common now," Goldstein said. "But winning 200 matches is really the ultimate achievement. You have to be talented for a long period of time and stay injury-free."
The 200-win club is thin, but membership has almost doubled as three Rocky Point wrestlers have reached that plateau. Before this year, no school had two wrestlers accomplish the feat, and now the Eagles have had three guys join that group - in the same season. "I never thought anyone would challenge the career wins record set by Jesse Jantzen," Goldstein said. "He was the best of the best."
Jantzen, a six-time county champion and four-time state champion from Shoreham-Wading River, is Long Island's all-time greatest wrestler. His career record was an astonishing 221-3, making him one of only four wrestlers to reach the 200-win plateau before this season.
A look at Rocky Point's outstanding triumvirate:
Stephen Dutton, 208-13
The defending Division I state champion at 135 pounds has the best shot to break Jantzen's record. Dutton, 48-0 last season, is a three-time county champion and three-time all-state wrestler. He could wrestle as many as 21 matches between now and the state championship bout. The Eagles are scheduled to compete in the North Fork Tournament in Mattituck, four league VI dual meets and then the league, county and state tournaments.
"He's tenacious and hard-nosed," Goldstein said. "He's very hard on himself and has high expectations. He's very smart and an A student. His first two trips to the state tournament, he came up short , and that really fueled his desire to win a state title last year."
Dutton, who wrestled varsity at Hauppauge for four years before moving to Rocky Point, is 32-0 and ranked first at 140 pounds. He will attend Lehigh in the fall. "I won't be satisfied unless I win another state title," Dutton said. "That's just a given. I only want the best. The goal is go out and win the state and then go on to win the nationals."
Goldstein says Dutton is one of the most driven wrestlers he's coached. "The kid is relentless on the mat," he said. "He has his individual goals. Of course he wants to win another state title. But his ultimate goal is to be a national champion and take those achievements with him into the collegiate level."
Anthony Volpe, 202-19
Goldstein calls the gifted Volpe "The Incredible Hulk Without the Green.'' The five-time league champion will look to tie the county record when he goes after his sixth league crown in February. He is 27-1, having suffered his first loss of the season - a 2-1 double-overtime decision to Glenn's Mike Bosco - on Friday afternoon.
"He's been battling some high fevers the last two weeks," Goldstein said. "But he's getting better and should be 100 percent by the time the league tournament comes around."
Volpe showed tremendous resolve to wrestle back through the losers' bracket to finish third in the state tournament as a junior. He is on target for his first shot at a state title this year.
"He has an unbelievable work ethic," Goldstein said. "I've seen him since he came into the KID wrestling program in the second grade. And we brought him up to the varsity team as a seventh-grader after he got through the selective classification process."
Volpe already has accepted a wrestling scholarship to attend Rutgers in the fall. He'll get the opportunity to face the talented Bosco again. The Glenn grappler presents a difficult hurdle in the league tournament, the county tournament and maybe even the state tournament.
"Wrestling is all about hurdles and beating the top guys," Goldstein said. "The loss will serve as motivation and push him harder."
For Billy Coggins, the defending county champion at 160 pounds, the time is now. He is the top-ranked wrestler in the state at 171 and knows the pressure that comes with the top billing. He earned his 200th career win with a 6-3 win over Jared Cheatem of Glenn, who is ranked third in the county.
"When I first started, my goal was 100 wins," Coggins said. "I'm happy to be a part of an elite group. And doing it alongside Volpe and Dutton, two of my very best friends, makes it even more special. Our ultimate goal is to win a state championship."
Coggins began his career with Volpe in the North Shore Wrestling Club. The two have been inseparable in the practice room and all year round.
When Volpe suffered his first loss Friday, it was Coggins who went to his side.
"No one wants to hear that a loss will ultimately help them in the long run," Coggins said. "But after the pain wears off, you can either get down and lose your focus or get up and make yourself stronger. Anthony will be fine."
Coggins is 30-1, with his one loss coming against Tyler Beckwith of Greene in the Eastern States Tournament final. Beckwith is a two-time Division II state champ and defending national champion.
"I didn't wrestle my best, but it helped me put the rest of the season in perspective and reset my level of thinking," Coggins said. "We have one of the better coaches on Long Island and he's been a great motivator. He makes himself available for extra workouts and getting through the tough times. And if you're willing to put in the time, so is he. And that's a winning formula."
Coggins will attend Virginia in the fall. "He's the technician with the great work ethic," Goldstein said. "He does all the extra things that it takes to make him a winner."