The initials JT are emblazoned on the T-shirts of the Westhampton wrestlers.
All season, Alex Tanzman, a senior pinning machine, has wrestled with a heavy heart. With his mom, Jina Tanzman, ailing with pancreatic cancer, and unable to attend Wednesday night's Suffolk County wrestling championships at Whitman, the state's top-ranked 106-pounder turned in an exciting third-period pin for his second straight county championship.
Latest HS sports stories
A resilient Tanzman erased a 4-0 deficit and came back for the pin in 4:56 to beat Steven Lee of West Babylon. Tanzman, who had 59 pins over the past two years, allowed two early takedowns but came back to tie the score at four before hitting a big throw for the win in South Huntington.
Tanzman, who improved to 32-1 and placed third in the state last year at 99 pounds, is excited to have another opportunity to win the state crown.
"I have a lot to wrestle for and I know my mom is proud," Tanzman said. "I wrestle for her every time I go out there. It's my senior season and the last chance to get a state title."
Ward Melville sophomore Nick Piccininni earned his third straight county crown with a win by technical fall over Floyd's Mat Bradice at 113 pounds.
Piccininni, who wears pink socks in honor of his mom, Lauren, and all the women who battle breast cancer, improved to 39-0. He will head to the state tournament in Albany as the top-ranked wrestler at 113.
Sayville senior Matt Leshinger and Half Hollow Hills West senior Tyler Grimaldi both won their second county crowns.
Leshinger, who finished third in the state last season, decisioned Chris Mauriello, 7-3, at 132 pounds. Grimaldi, who was a state runner-up last year, downed Kevin Rodriguez of Patchogue-Medford, 9-2, at 160 pounds.
Grimaldi, who will attend Harvard in the fall, was extremely fired up for another shot at the state crown.
"This is what I've waited to do all season," he said. "It's right in front of me."
Sachem East earned the district's first team title since 1992. The Flaming Arrows had seven county place winners, including finalist Jackson Mordente. They had an impressive five wrestlers come back for a third-place finish through the wrestlebacks to pile up points and win the county team title.
Conor O'Hara (132), Michael Pistone (152), Mark Tracy (160), Cristian Nunez (195) and John Vigh (220) all placed third. Jakob Restrepo placed fourth at 138.
"I'm real happy and proud of our kids," Sachem East coach Sean O'Hara said. "We had seven wrestlers in the semifinals and only one advanced to the finals. That was pretty devastating but we bounced back in the consolation round and showed a lot of character. We were resilient and I'm especially pleased with that."
The last time Sachem won a county crown was when O'Hara was a senior and won the county championship at 126 pounds.
"Coming back through the wrestleback round to place third in the county tournament is very difficult," O'Hara said. "There are so many good teams in Suffolk and for us to win as a team is a great achievement. This is the first time we've won the county tournament as Sachem East and it feels good with a special group of kids."