When the referee slapped the mat and blew his whistle during Julius Anglickas' first wrestling match for Southampton, Anglickas was confused. He walked off the mat and asked his coach why the match ended early, and was informed that he had just been pinned.
"When I first started I didn't know what you were out there to fight for," said Anglickas, who was born in Lithuania and began wrestling in 2005, his first year in an American school. "I was on my back and I didn't know what happened. I asked my coach, 'how did I lose?'"
Anglickas hasn't needed much of an explanation about losing since as the 215-pound senior is the lone returning state place-winner from Long Island in the Division II level (he finished fifth at 215) and has amassed a 21-1 record this season.
"It's remarkable how much he's improved," Southampton coach Ryan McCready said. "He had a lot to learn. It's a testament to how hard he works. He trains like a mad man."
Every morning Anglickas runs nearly five miles from his home in Water Mill to Southampton High School, and when he's not in class or at practice, he's in the weight room. That determination stems from his upbringing in Plunge, the Lithuanian town of just over 24,000 about 40 miles east of the Baltic Sea.
It was there that Julius and his older brother Gabriel would cut trees, carry rocks and tend the fields for their grandmother, who raised the boys after their mother and father came to America in 2001 to find work (they couldn't afford to bring the children). Anglickas noted the town of Plunge was rough at times, both in school and on the streets.
"If [teachers] would hit you, they wouldn't get in trouble," Anglickas said. "On the other side of town, kids were getting jumped. Those kids do bad in school. Nobody raised them well."
Anglickas and his brother steered clear of trouble, and in the summer of 2005, they came to visit their mother, who remarried after a divorce from their father and resided in Southampton. The trip was supposed to be a two-week visit, but their stepdad offered them a permanent home - and they accepted.
"We thought things would be better here," Anglickas said. "Everything seemed much easier."
Though Anglickas had a fine education in Lithuania, there were obstacles for him - mainly not being able to speak English. So he enrolled in an English as a Second Language summer school class, and now can communicate clearly even though he still has a thick accent.
The next step was athletics. His size made him a natural for football and wrestling, but those were two sports he knew nothing about.
"I had no clue about four downs, kickoffs or offense and defense," he said. "In wrestling, the main thing I learned was not to be put on my back."
When his technique and knowledge caught up to his raw athletic ability and strength, a star was born. Anglickas became an All-Division defensive end on the gridiron, and an All-State grappler.
"He's a physical specimen," said Miller Place coach Dom LoRe, whose 189-pounder, Zach Buonaiuto (fifth in the state last year on the Division I level), handed Anglickas his only loss this season. "He's chiseled out of stone. He was probably Zach's toughest opponent on Long Island."
So while fifth place was nice for Anglickas last season, a state title is what he's aiming for now.
"I'd thought I'd see guys three times the size of me up there last year," he said. "Now I know what it takes to have my hand raised."
And to think, just three years after he had no idea how to do the same thing.THE SPOTLIGHT