Win 39 straight dual meets and two consecutive Nassau dual meet championships and expectations will be high. That's the situation the top-seeded Wantagh Warriors were in as they prepared for the county dual meet final against the No. 2 MacArthur Generals (23-8).
Wantagh (18-0) blew away expectations -- and the Generals, 45-16 -- to win its third consecutive Nassau dual meet championship Saturday afternoon at Clarke High School.
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"I think this is right up there with some of the great teams I've had in the past," Wantagh coach Paul Gillespie said. "They are one of the best groups of young men that I've ever coached. They're great students and great wrestlers. I'm hoping that we can continue and win the county tournament and go up and do some damage in the state tournament as well."
It's hard to see anyone in Nassau or the rest of the state stopping Wantagh.
"Our whole team is a group of solid guys and this is a special team," said Nick Vines, who won a 4-0 decision over Sal Randazzo at 145 pounds. "We all worked so hard to get to this point and it's just really exciting to win a county title in this fashion and just blow them out of the water like that."
"Hard work" is the apt description when talking about an athlete like Vines, who's been wrestling with a torn ACL that will require surgery after the season.
The strength of the Wantagh team is its depth. Behind Vines are wrestlers such as Dan McDevitt, who pinned Nick Tangredi in 1:36 at 182 pounds and who's been to two straight county finals, winning last year at 138 pounds and placing fifth in the state.
Said McDevitt: "Having top wrestlers in the room everyday, kids who have won nationals, kids who have placed in the states and won the county finals, mentally prepares you to be the toughest you possibly can be in every match. It prepares us as well as it could to go out and face a talented team like MacArthur."
Wantagh has talent to spare, including James Corbett, who won by forfeit at 195 Saturday but has proved to be one of the top higher-weight wrestlers in the state during the season; Chris Araoz, who beat MacArthur's Justin Cooksey for the second time this season when he took a 10-6 decision at 126 pounds; and Kyle Quinn, who pinned MacArthur's Vincent Thron in 50 seconds at 113 pounds.
"Our team is awesome," Araoz said. "We have one of the deepest teams I've ever seen. We have backups that would probably be all-county."
Even with all that talent it was an unsung hero who made a huge impact at the most opportune time to save Wantagh's winning streak.
At the Union-Endicott duals in Binghamton earlier this month -- the premier regular-season dual meet tournament in the state -- the Warriors found themselves down to Islip with only one match remaining. Seventh-grader Jonathan Loew stepped in and won an overtime match at 99 pounds to keep Wantagh alive in the tournament. The Warriors went on to defeat Sachem East in the championship. McDevitt called Loew's match the "defining moment of the season."
The team portion of the season might be over but that certainly doesn't mean that Wantagh wrestling will be done winning.
"Now we're looking for a state championship and a county championship in the individual tournaments," Vines said. "We just want to keep winning."