Ryan Wieczorek saw greatness as a backup when Massapequa captured the Class I Long Island title. From that quiet underclassman grew a senior captain, and with aspects of both still present emerged a linebacker who earned the Piner Award given to Nassau’s best linebacker.
“I honestly thought I was going to pass out, my heart was pumping that fast,” Wieczorek said. “As soon as my name was called, I just felt like all of my hard work was accomplished.”
Wieczorek finished his senior year with 105 tackles, four sacks and an interception for Massapequa. His ability to plug gaps in run defense and cover zones in pass defense provided coach Kevin Shippos with a reliable, top-tier athlete at the heart of his defense.
“[Middle linebacker is] the quarterback of the defense,” Shippos said. “You got to be able to do multiple things, playing the run or the pass . . . he really approached the position with an attention to detail that was what we needed from him this year.”
A defensive quarterback is what Wieczorek became, but that transition to captain and leader didn’t happen overnight. Shippos said the linebacker was a quiet kid in past years, sitting and learning behind the 2021 Massapequa team that won the same Long Island Class I title Wieczorek claimed this year.
“We were a little worried about him, because he didn’t speak at all,” Shippos said. “We knew he was going to be good because he was physically talented. And then (in the months after winning the 2021 title), it’s like a switch went off.”
Wieczorek said the 2021 team had inspired him to be bigger and better than he was before.
“That leadership everyone had on that team, it really gave me a spark into changing my ways,” Wieczorek said. “Being more vocal, being more of a leader, putting that time and work in the weight room. They were my role models.”
That doesn’t mean Wieczorek turned into a chatterbox, but instead matured into a leader of an ever-talented Massapequa football program.
“When he spoke, people listened,” Shippos said. “And he didn’t have to do a ton of talking, because our defense was pretty lights-out. He was the focal point of that.”
While Wieczorek will be leaving behind some large shoes to fill, the cycle has already begun to reset. Shippos pointed out Anthony DiNello, a sophomore, calling him “the same type of player” and noted how Wieczorek has taught him the ropes like seniors did for him years ago.
“He brings the same type of athleticism, smartness and toughness that Ryan brings,” Shippos said.
The wheel of talented linebackers keeps turning in Massapequa, but it will always have a permanent spot in the record books for Wieczorek as the 2023 Piner Award winner.