ALBANY — Danny Mauriello sat against a retaining wall late Friday night in the Times Union Center and stared straight ahead. The disappointment of a quarterfinal loss in the state’s Division I wrestling tournament weighed heavily on him.
The dreams of a second straight state crown for the Hauppauge senior were crushed in a 10-6 quarterfinal loss to senior Quincy Downes of Fox Lane at 170 pounds.
The state wrestling tournament can be a humbling experience. And here was Mauriello in the throes of an emotional nightmare, the stinging realization that a second straight state crown was not going to happen.
Wisely, Mauriello’s Hauppauge coaches, father and teammates gave him some much-needed space. He was in a place no wrestler wants to go — that zone where the state title dream is officially over and the focus redirects to a battle that winds through the rounds of the consolation bracket to get on the winners’ podium.
Eliminated from title contention, the defending state champion now needed four consecutive wins in the consolation rounds to finish third and earn All-State status.
“Your mind is cluttered with negativity right after you lose,” Eastport-South Manor coach Nick Garone said. “Legendary Iowa coach Dan Gable said it best: ‘I’ll take an army of third-place guys over the champions anytime, because the road to third-place in a tournament takes an inner strength you can’t fathom. It takes guts, faith and the resolve of a winner.’ “
Hauppauge coach Chris Messina wanted Mauriello to finish his career in style, win or lose.
“It takes a special athlete to find the resilience to come back and win through the consolation bracket,” he said. “Danny is a super competitor and I knew he was done mentally and didn’t want to be here anymore after the loss. He’d been through so much this season just to get back on the mat, having to overcome so many injuries from football. But he needed to finish with class and he owed that to himself and our program. He’d regret it the rest of his life if he didn’t finish.”
Mauriello will have no regrets. He made everyone proud. He won four straight consolation bouts, including a pin of James Araneo of Ward Melville in 3:15 late Saturday afternoon to earn a third-place finish at 170 pounds.
“I’m so proud of him, just as proud of him as I was last year when he was a state champion,” said his father, Nick Mauriello. “It’s easy for guys to walk away when the dream is over. I gave him time to reflect on the situation and come back. We don’t care as much about the loss as much as we care about the effort. He’s a man of character and he knows he can do anything now. It’s been an extremely tough wrestling season for him and he’s still not 100 percent, never really had enough in the tank. But to decide to go on and make a memory he’ll never forget – I’m blown by his ability to pick himself up and continue.”
Gary and Sandi Redding watched their son Zach go through the same disappointment a year ago. Redding, the state champion at 120 pounds in 2018, fell short of his second state title last year. The Eastport-South Manor junior dropped a 6-4 decision to Tyler Kellison of Jamesville-DeWitt and was forced into the consolation bracket.
“He was destroyed because he wanted to be a three-time state champion,” Gary said. “I told him how important it was for him to pick himself up, dust himself off and come back strong – and that goes for everything he’ll do in his life. There’s going to be ups and downs and sports gives us the opportunity to experience success and failure. The character of any person is how they react when they’re down.”
Redding won his next two bouts and finished third at 126 in 2019.
“That may have helped him developmentally more than anything,” Gary said. “I was paralyzed when he lost. But we talked about it and he gathered himself and here we are in 2020.”
Redding got redemption this year, winning the 132-pound Division I state title with a 4-2 win over sophomore Jayden Scott of Rush-Henrietta on Saturday night. The senior finished his season 52-0.
As for Mauriello, he’ll climb aboard the winners podium, and be proud of his final day of wrestling.