Ward Melville's Piccininni wins state 113-pound title
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ALBANY -- In a rare treat for wrestling fans at the state tournament, two defending state champions squared off in the 113-pound title bout. The Times Union Center rocked in anticipation as Ward Melville sophomore Nick Piccininni and senior Kyle Kelly of Chenango Forks put their respective winning streaks on the line Saturday for the state crown.
Piccininni, riding an 88-match win streak, hadn't lost a match since the eighth grade. His opponent then was an outstanding sophomore, Kyle Kelly.
With all the drama and the history between the two, Piccininni left little doubt as to who the better wrestler was in 2013. Piccininni pounded his way past Kelly in dominant fashion with a 14-4 win to capture the 113-pound state crown before more than 5,500 fans. The loss halted Kelly's winning streak at 104.
"The last time I walked off the mat in defeat it was at his hand," said Piccininni, who was named the tournament's most outstanding wrestler. "I had to be physical and stick to the strategic plan."
That plan was to attack Kelly from the neutral position and put on a technician's takedown clinic. Piccininni built a commanding 9-0 lead and Kelly was never in the match.
"I have clearly risen on the ladder of experience," said Piccininni. "I felt like I was much stronger and had a much better arsenal to beat him. He had no answer for anything I was doing."
Ward Melville coaches Bill DeSario and Kurt Ferraro were in awe of Piccininni's display of power and technique.
"It was his smartest bout of the season against a quality wrestler," DeSario said. "He destroyed a defending state champion -- totally took him apart. He has set himself apart from the competition."
Ferraro pounded Piccininni's chest afterward and hugged him repeatedly. "It was awesome," Ferraro said. "Kelly couldn't handle him."
Piccininni improved to 142-3 and earned his second state title. He is on course to challenge the records of Shoreham-Wading River's Jesse Jantzen, Long Island's greatest wrestler of all time. Jantzen is Long Island's only four-time state champion and had a career record of 221-3.
"I'll continue to take it one match at a time," Piccininni said. "But my goal is to compete like Jesse Jantzen did. I want to be like him -- a great role model and an outstanding competitor."
Unseeded senior TJ Fabian of Shoreham-Wading River made the most of his wild card entry when he pinned Keanu Thompson of Grand Street Campus in 5:51 to win the 126-pound title. It was the second year in a row that a Suffolk wild card in the 126 weight class placed third in the sectional and came back to win the state title. Connetquot's Sean McCabe did it last year.
Fabian finished with a 195-24 record, including a school record 132 pins. He also set the Wildcats' record for wins in a season with a 51-1 mark this year.
"He was upset in the county tournament and it didn't stop him," said Shoreham-Wading River coach Joe Condon. "Some kids lose and you have to talk them off the cliff. But Fabian had a laserlike focus after he lost and there was no stopping him."
Fabian had two shutout decisions and two pins in the tournament. "It feels great to finish my career with a pin," Fabian said. "And to do it the state finals is awesome."
Fabian became Shoreham's fourth state champion in school history.
Syosset's Vito Arujau lost a heartbreaker in overtime criteria when Yianni Diakomihalis (Hilton, Rochester) was able to ride the Braves' eighth grader out for the final 30-second period for the 99-pound title. The two battled to a 2-2 tie and then grappled through two intense scoreless overtimes before Diakomihalis won in sudden death.
Kyle Quinn used a double leg takedown in the waning moments of the first period to open the scoring against Westhampton's Alex Tanzman. Quinn extended the lead to 4-0 with a single leg takedown midway through the second period and controlled the bout the rest of the way for a 7-1 win and the 106-pound state crown.
Team Suffolk scored a state record 321 points and won the state team title for the 21st time, also a record.