There were a number of circumstances that could have derailed Nick Casella’s hopes for a national championship in wrestling.
First, a transfer from the University of Maryland to Nassau Community College represented a major life change. He then experienced knee bursitis in the beginning of the season, sidelining him for a few weeks.
He also missed a few days during the season to attend to family issues.
But the former Locust Valley state champion overcame all the hiccups to win an NJCAA national title at 141 pounds, becoming Nassau CC’s 13th national champ in program history.
“I set a goal during the summer, and it was to be a national champ,” said Casella, a four-time placewinner at the New York State tournament.
Despite transferring from an accomplished Division I program, Casella operated this season as a relative unknown. Coach Paul Schmidt said that his peers failed to rank Casella in his weight class throughout the season, even though he vouched for him time and again.
“I was always extremely confident he would place at Nationals,” Schmidt said. “He wasn’t even on the last ranking that came out.”
Casella said now that his main focuses are recovering from a long season and testing the waters to see if he can receive a scholarship from a four-year college. Schmidt said he has already taken “at least five calls” from interested coaches.
“We’re in a wait-and-see mode,” Schmidt said. “Wrestling scholarships aren’t easy to come by.”
But with success now at both the state and national level, Casella is looking for yet another challenge.
LIU Post men’s lacrosse a matter of family
Three Miller Place brothers are helping carry the successful tradition of LIU Post men’s lacrosse.
Matthew, Steven and Thomas Liantonio won a Suffolk Class B title with the Panthers as teammates before making their way to the Pioneers, a local program with a history of success in Division II.
Matthew, a senior goalie, was a member of the All-East Coast Conference third team last season and posted an 8-3 record. He allowed 8.29 goals per game.
Steven is a senior midfielder who appeared in 13 games last year, including a successful appearance in the NCAA Division II National quarterfinal at No. 3 Merrimack in which he recorded two groundballs.
Their sophomore brother Thomas plays attack and midfield and made five starts last year, totaling 12 points. He will redshirt this season, however, after being with myocarditis, the inflammation of the middle layer of the heart wall.
The Pioneers are 2-3 with a 21-4 win at home over American International College representing the season highlight.
Guerra dominates HVIAC as freshman
It didn’t take long for Babylon’s Emily Guerra to take the Hudson Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Conference by storm.
The 5-9 freshman forward immediately made an impact at Pratt Institute, averaging 13.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.1 steals per game and earning a spot on the All-HVIAC team.
Guerra was a three-time HVIAC Rookie of the Week and scored in double figures in 11 of her 15 games played, registering seven double-doubles.
Her best moments came in two matchups against Vaughn College. In the first game of her collegiate career against Vaughn, she finished two assists shy of a triple-double (18 points, 17 rebounds, eight assists).
In the season finale at Vaughn, Guerra’s layup with five seconds left gave HVIAC a 67-66 win.