ALBANY -- Mike Hughes etched his name in the annals of Smithtown West history late Saturday night at the Times Union Center. The 6-5, 250-pounder put the clamps on Austin Coleman of Spencerport and pinned the Rochester senior in 2:30 to capture the state's 285-pound wrestling crown.
Hughes capped a brilliant senior season with his 31st pin on his way to a 42-0 record. When he rose from the mat, Hughes pointed in the direction of a large contingent of family and friends who supported his trek through the state tournament.
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"I wanted to acknowledge them for all their support and love," he said. "It's been a rewarding year, and to have them travel all the way up here for me was such a nice thing to do."
Hughes, who will decide between football and wrestling in college, was swarmed by many from his inner circle at the conclusion of the finals. He wrestled with a heavy heart last season and placed sixth in the state tournament, a somewhat disappointing end for a wrestler whom most considered one of the very best heavyweights.
But understandably Hughes' mind was far away. His mother, Julia, was at home in the fight for her life. Julia Hughes lost her battle with breast cancer soon thereafter in March.
"I won the state championship for my mom," Hughes said. "I never really wanted to talk about it because it was so personal. But I know she's proud and looking down on me, and it's a great feeling knowing I was able to come back here and win the title."
Hughes credited coach Ken Leverich with helping set the tone for the season with an excellent workout schedule and training partners.
"I wouldn't be here if it weren't for my coaches," Hughes said. "They are amazing. They brought people in the room that could work out with me. And they kept me focused through the tougher times."
Leverich said Hughes always has a smile and is one of the most endearing kids anyone could want to coach. "He's been through so much adversity and was able to stay the course," Leverich said. "We knew he was something special when he came to the varsity in the 10th grade. I am so happy for him."
The Suffolk sectional team, which crowned seven champions, set the all-time scoring record with 312 points and won the team title for a tournament-record 21st time. Nassau was second in team scoring with 222.5 points and crowned three individual champions.
Wantagh, ranked first in the state, earned the team crown with 83.5 points, 18.5 ahead of Shenendehowa. The Warriors were led by junior Kyle Quinn, the 106-pound champion, and three other scorers. James Corbett placed second at 182, Dan McDevitt was third at 170 and Vinny Turano took fourth at 132.