Max Gallagher, Bayport-Blue Point, junior, 126 pounds (Div. II)

Max Gallagher, Bayport-Blue Point, junior, 126 pounds (Div. II) Credit: Newsday/William Perlman

Max Gallagher, Bayport-Blue Point

The grind never stops for Max Gallagher.

The Bayport-Blue Point junior worked meticulously on his craft for years in hopes of getting another chance under the spotlight in Albany during the state wrestling tournament.

He had been there as a freshman in 2020 before losing a close decision in the final. 

He didn’t get the opportunity in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. After securing his third Suffolk championship he knew he wouldn’t let anything get in his way of going back to Albany and winning a title. 

The vision turned into a reality on Feb. 26, when Gallagher defeated Jonny Vicario of Eden by technical fall in 5:11 at MVP Arena at 126 pounds to cap a 34-0 season with a Division II title.

“I almost got taken down at one point just because I was going after him but I don’t mind that as long as I’m outscoring,” Gallagher said. “That match went pretty much how I expected.”

Not satisfied by a state title, a month later he competed in a national tournament in Virginia Beach. Although he finished fourth in his weight class it was just another example of Gallagher continuing to put the work in.

“It’s tough after a long season to stay motivated when your body is banged up and you need some rest but I’m able to do it,” he said. “The ultimate goal for me is to win a national tournament.”

Joe Sparacio, Mattituck

Joe Sparacio knew it wasn’t going to be easy.

The four-time Suffolk county champion and Mattituck senior was about to wrestle in the biggest match of his high school career at the MVP Arena in Albany on Feb. 26.

He trailed early in the third period of the 132-pound Division II championship match against Caden Bellis of Tioga.

Mattituck’s Joseph Sparacio wrestles Tioga’s Caden Bellis in the 132-pound...

Mattituck’s Joseph Sparacio wrestles Tioga’s Caden Bellis in the 132-pound Division 2 final of the 2022 NYSPHSAA wrestling championships on Saturday at the MVP Arena in Albany, N.Y. Credit: Newsday/William Perlman

He rallied to momentarily take the lead before a coaches challenge and controversial call overturned the go-ahead points.

None of it fazed him.

Sparacio rallied and hung on to win the match, 6-5, to become Mattituck’s fifth state champion and the first since 2018. 

“I didn’t want to go into overtime and just wanted to get it done and not leave it up to anything,” Sparacio said. “There was nothing I could do about that call. I just had to keep wrestling my hardest and go out there and score the points that I needed.”

“He’s something special,” Mattituck coach Nic Fioretti said. “Joe has unlimited potential and I’m very happy he was able to accomplish his goals. I’m looking forward to where he goes from here.”

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