A look at Long Island's state champions for the 2014-15 winter season, listed in alphabetical order.
CHRISTIAN ARANEO, WARD MELVILLE WRESTLING
This was Christian Araneo’s break-out season as he won the Suffolk and state Division I titles for the first time. He decisioned junior Nick McShea of Monroe-Woodbury, 13-4, to claim the 195-pound title. “While most of the media attention was focused on his teammate Nick Piccinninni, this guy just rolled through his weight class,” said Ward Melville coach Bill DeSario. “He had an amazing season.” He took third in the NHSCA junior national tournament. He was 43-1 this season and had a career record of 134-29.
JOHN ARCERI, HUNTINGTON WRESTLING
John Arceri won his third straight Suffolk title and his first state title when he beat senior Jay Albis of John Jay East Fishkill, 3-2, in two overtimes. Arceri has scrapped his way through a double overtime win in the semifinal round. He and his dad, John, became only the second father-son tandem from Suffolk to both win state titles. His father won the state crown for Ward Melville at 138 pounds in 1981. Arceri finished with a 42-1 record and his career mark was 151-33.
MAGGIE AROESTY, LONG BEACH SWIMMING
As a freshman, Maggie Aroesty won the 100 breaststroke state title but placed fifth in the 200 individual medley. That disappointed her. So as a sophomore, Aroesty worked on her technique in the backstroke -- her weakest stroke, she said -- and her ability to sprint the final 50 meters of the freestyle. Aroesty said that helped her shave off about a second on each stroke.
“That definitely helped me this year,” she said. The result was titles in the 100 breaststroke (1:02.19) and the 200 IM (2:00.71), where she also qualified as an All-American. Said Aroesty, “I was proud of myself.”
VITO ARUJAU, SYOSSET WRESTLING
Vito Arujau has been in three consecutive state title bouts winning the last two. His latest title came after an exciting final in which he beat East Islip senior Jesse Dellavecchia, 11-6. He has won 90 straight matches and his career record is 136-1, his only loss coming in the state final as an eighth-grader. “He is technically sound and has an amazing inner drive to be the best,” said Syosset coach Mike Murtha. “When his wrestling career ends, we could be looking at one of the best ever.”
Arujau capped off a brilliant season by winning the sophomore national title where he was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler. Our Nassau Wrestler of the Year had a 46-0 record.
KATIE BOWE, WARD MELVILLE GYMNASTICS
Katie Bowe entered last year's state gymnastics tournament with jitters. Then a seventh-grader in her first year on Ward Melville's varsity team, the experience was completely foreign to her. But a year later, greater maturity and confidence made all the difference.
"This year, she really came out and said, 'I think I can do this,' " coach Caryl Crasa said. "Last year, she was a little tentative. But now there's no fear for her."
Bowe, who attends Paul J. Gelinas Junior High School, scored a 9.45 on the beam to narrowly edge Nyack's Amara Cunningham (9.425) and Ward Melville teammate Cydney Crasa (9.4) to win her first gold medal at the state tournament.
BRIDGEHAMPTON BOYS BASKETBALL
It took 17 years, but the Killer Bees finally bridged a generation gap.
Bridgehampton, which hadn't won a boys Class D state basketball championship since 1998, impressively rolled to its ninth title March 21. From coach Carl Johnson, to star player Charles Manning Jr., and right down to the ball boys, there were family ties to past champions all around. Dozens of the old guard cheered on the new guards -- and forwards -- in a familiar venue, Glens Falls Civic Center.
"I love every single one of them that made the trip," said Johnson, who played for the Killer Bees when they won three state titles in a row from 1978-80 and has coached them to four more. "It's like being back home."
It was a homecoming that gave this year's championship team a huge boost. Manning transferred from Riverhead, where his mother lives, to Bridgehampton, where his father, three-time state champion and three-time MVP Maurice Manning, lives. Charles Jr. earned his first MVP trophy this year with 31 points, eight rebounds and five steals in the title-game victory over New York Mills, and 29 points, nine rebounds and four blocks in a semifinal win over Moriah.
CONNOR BROWN, GARDEN CITY SWIMMING
Connor Brown had already proved he was a special swimmer, otherwise Notre Dame would not have offered him a spot on its team for next year. But as he traveled up to Ithaca in late February, he did not have a state title to his name. That changed quickly, as Brown won the 200 freestyle in 1:39.34 and the 500 freestyle in an automatic All-American time of 4:27.46.
“I’m really happy about it,” Brown said. “I think I just got lucky being the fastest guy coming into the meet.”
He may call it luck, but Brown won each race by at least 1.5 seconds. It wasn’t close.
JAMES BURKE, PORT JEFFERSON TRACK AND FIELD
It was hardly a surprise to see Port Jefferson’s James Burke cross the line a 1,600-meter winner in 4 minutes, 17.88 seconds. Just shy of a month prior, Burke had won the prestigious New Balance High School Mile at the Millrose Games in Manhattan. So a state championship seemed like a logical progression.
“It means everything,” he said of the victory. “On my runs over the summer, during cross country, this whole winter, I just pictured [the Cornell] track and that last 200 meters. It’s all worth it.”
ADAM BUSIELLO, EASTPORT-SOUTH MANOR WRESTLING
Adam Busiello became the first Suffolk eighth-grader to win a state title when he beat Benny Baker of Newark Valley, 11-1. He went 44-1 this season, losing only in the Eastern States championship bout.
“He’s going on to do special things for the rest of his high school career,” said Eastport-South Manor coach Nick Garone. “He can eclipse all the Long Island records with his talent and focus.”
Last season, Busiello became the first seventh-grader from Long Island to reach the state finals. Busiello, who has an 89-7 career record, was a runnerup in the NSCHA junior high nationals.
NICK CASELLA, LOCUST VALLEY WRESTLING
Nick Casella was a four-time Nassau Division II champion and a state placewinner three years straight before finally winning a state title. He finishing second, second and fifth before beating senior Cody McGregor of Tonawanda, 2-1, for the Division II title. Casella took fifth place in the NHSCA nationals. In a long line of great Locust Valley wrestlers, he is the school’s first four-time Nassau champion.
GUNTHER CASSELL, HUNTINGTON-HARBORFIELDS SWIMMING
Gunther Cassell set a state record, winning the 100 breaststroke in 54.51 seconds. Cassell, a senior, had won the event as a freshman and sophomore. Cassell impressed Huntington-Harborfields coach Gil Smith to such a degree during his freshman year that Smith vowed to stave off retirement until the swimmer’s senior campaign had ended.
“I’ve only had three kids in my 39 years of coaching that broke a minute in all four strokes, and he’s one of them,” Smith said. “When you get a kid that can break a minute in all four strokes, you’ve got an exceptional athlete.”
CYDNEY CRASA, WARD MELVILLE GYMNASTICS
Back in November, Cydney Crasa got a phone call from George Washington University. The school offered her a full scholarship for gymnastics, and the Ward Melville junior, caught off guard, reacted like anyone would.
"I couldn't contain my emotions," Crasa said. "They made the offer, and after I said yes and got off the phone, I started to cry. It was like all my hard work paid off. I still have to pinch myself."
Added Ward Melville coach and Cydney's mother, Caryl: "They've never offered a scholarship to a junior that early. She was screaming and jumping up and down."
But it was how Crasa handled herself in the weeks and months that followed that demonstrated how she earned such an impressive opportunity in the first place.
Where some might see a full ride as an excuse to ease off the gas pedal, Crasa's work ethic never wavered -- not in the gym, and not in the classroom. Crasa won gold in the vault (9.825) and in the balance beam (9.575) at the state tournament in Buffalo.
PAIGE DUCA, FRIENDS ACADEMY TRACK AND FIELD
When the bell indicating the final lap of the New York State 1,500 meters clanged, it represented more than just the final race of the day for Friends Academy’s Paige Duca. Her high school indoor career was about to end and she had two choices -- watch it go by, taking the good memories with it, or grit her teeth and go get a state title.
She chose the latter and, boy, did it work. Duca won the 1,500 in 4 minutes, 36.42 seconds on March 7 at Cornell.
“I gave it everything I had because this is my last indoor state meet,” she said immediately after the race. “I wanted to go for the win.”
TOMMY DUTTON, ROCKY POINT WRESTLING
Tommy Dutton became Long Island’s all-time winningest wrestler and finished his career with a 261-27 record. He is only the third Long Island wrestler to win six league titles. Shoreham-Wading River’s Jesse Jantzen and Rocky Point’s Anthony Volpe were the first wrestlers to accomplish the feat.
Dutton capped off his stellar career by beating senior Michael Raccioppi of Minisink Valley, 10-2, to win the 145-pound crown. He capped his season with a 48-0 record and his first state championship. He will wrestle for Harvard.
EAST ISLIP BOYS BOWLING
It's great to be back on top.
After a seven-year absence, East Islip's boys bowling team owns the state championship trophy again.
John Kavanaugh led the roll to the top with a 239 game to complete his 1,238 series in the finals against Fulton at Strike 'N Spare Lanes in Syracuse.
CASEY GAVIGAN, WARD MELVILLE SWIMMING
Casey Gavigan, a junior, was no stranger to the top of the podium. But until last fall, she had only stood there at the state meet as a member of a championship-winning 200 medley relay team.
“Being part of a team is awesome because you’re part of something, but you can’t call it your own,” said Gavigan, who set her sights on the 100 backstroke title, and she won it in 55.16 seconds.
“It’s still like a dream looking back on it,” she said. “Doing it on my own shows that my hard work paid off.”
LUKE GERMANAKOS, LYNBROOK TRACK AND FIELD
The feeling was decidedly different this year for Lynbrook’s Luke Germanakos as he prepared for the 600 meters at the New York State Championships on March 7 at Cornell University. The senior was a defending champion and thus was known to all who toed the line.
“I knew that I was the top guy,” he said. “Everyone in the race was shooting for me and my time. The last few days of sleep haven’t really happened.”
But the sleepless nights didn’t hurt his race. Germanakos transformed from a defending champion into a two time champion with a win in 1 minute, 20.60 seconds.
JONATHAN GOMEZ, LOCUST VALLEY WRESTLING
After losing in the state finals a year ago, Jonathan Gomez struggled through a difficult season, but emerged as his school’s 10th state champion. In his second year on varsity he won his second Nassau sectional crown. Gomez decisioned eighth-grader Jacob Nolan of Saranac, 8-6, to win the 106-pound Division II state crown. He was 25-1 this season and has a 54-8 career record. He was a sophomore NHSCA champion at 106 pounds.
DAVID HAMIL, DEER PARK WRESTLING
David Hamil became his school’s first state champion in 20 years, and only the third overall. Hamil upended senior Jake Ashcraft of Burnt Hills, 9-4 to win the 192-pound title. He took fifth in the state as a junior. “He set our school record for most wins in a season and a career,” said Deer Park coach Mike McLaughlin. Hamil was 46-1 this year and had a 141-27 career record. He finished third in the NHSCA tournament this season.
HUNTINGTON BOYS 4x400 METER RELAY
Don’t look back! It’s an often preached mantra of track coaches all over. And it was anchor leg Infinite Tucker’s refusal to do so that helped him cross the line first in the 4x400-meter relay at the State Championships on March 7 at Cornell.
The team of Tucker (above left), Kyree Johnson, Exzayvian Crowell and Lawrence Leake (above right) finished in 3:27.76 and was the only LI relay team to come home with a gold medal.
Tucker said that he thought second-place North Rockland was inches away. In reality, the runner-ups finished two seconds behind him. But when a championship is on the line, it’s the thought that counts.
PAIGE KAPLAN, BELLMORE-MERRICK SWIMMING
Notre Dame-bound senior Paige Kaplan had qualified for the state meet in the 100 butterfly and the 200 individual medley every year of high school.
She finally earned a state championship in her last try, taking home the 100 butterfly in 55.53 seconds.
“I didn’t place in the top eight any other year, so to go from there to where I was this year was a big accomplishment,” Kaplan said.
As it turned out, she was just fast enough.
“I won by like .02 \[seconds\], which is nothing,” she said. “I didn’t even know how close it was, so it was really amazing.”
LI LUTHERAN GIRLS BASKETBALL
In the final minute of their final high school game, the basketball lives of three longtime friends and teammates flashed before their eyes.
Long Island Lutheran seniors Taylor Byrne and Nani Redford were taken out of the state Federation Class AA final March 28, with their team comfortably ahead, and 45.5 seconds showing on the clock. The third and most celebrated member of the group that has carved out a noteworthy legacy, Boogie Brozoski, was on the foul line. Of course she made both free throws and when the second one swished through the net, the buzzer signaled her removal from the game.
And it signaled the start of a hug-fest on the bench among the players and coach, Rich Slater, who has mentored the trio since the fifth grade. "They are three very, very special kids. Hopefully, I taught them more than just basketball lessons," Slater said. "Coaching Boogie is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. She's the best, and the other kids knew their roles."
That was evident throughout their magnificent high school careers. This season's Federation championship was the Lady Crusaders' third in a row and fourth in five years. Even the unflappable Brozoski, a five-year starter who was named Federation tournament MVP after scoring 30 points in a semifinal victory over Ossining and 24 in the title game against Christ the King, was overwhelmed. "It's unbelievable. Three in a row? That's crazy," she said. "Four altogether? It's just amazing."
The Lady Crusaders had an amazing 2014-15 season, finishing 21-4 against a rugged schedule. They finished on a 13-game winning streak after back-to-back losses in January. All five starters will play collegiately in Division I. Brozoski, who averaged 19.4 points, will attend Michigan. She scored the 2,000th point of her career in the title game on her signature crossover, pull-up jumper. She finished with 2,020 points and, according to Slater, "more than 500 assists."
ALEX PARK, HALF HOLLOW HILLS SWIMMING
Alex Park said he felt anxious swimming against three of his club teammates in the 200 individual medley finals. For the end result, though, the anxiety was a cheap price. Park, a sophomore, posted an All-American consideration time of 1:51.60, beating the pack by more than a second.
“I think his ceiling is the state record, to be honest,” Half Hollow Hills coach Jason Wiedersum said. “With two more years to go, it’s definitely worth thinking about the state record.”
That record of 1:47.83 was set by Hauppauge’s Justin Plaschka at the 2014 state championship.
FAITH PENNY, EAST ISLIP TRACK AND FIELD
The mountain proved to be a high one but, as she does most things, East Islip’s Faith Penny jumped over it. After a few near misses and an injury tried to keep her from ultimate glory, Penny finally reached the summit, clearing 5 feet, 6 inches at the New York State Championships on March 7 at Cornell.
“I’ve never been so happy,” she said.
Because of a knee injury that sidelined Penny for the beginning of the season, she said she didn’t begin competing seriously again until mid-January.
“I was lucky enough to jump the state qualifying height on my first jump back,” she said. “So that was pretty good.”
So is a state championship.
NICK PICCININNI, WARD MELVILLE WRESTLING
The foundation was set for Nick Piccininni’s remarkable career five years ago. He went on to capture five sectional titles in Suffolk, four state championships and finished with a 226-5 overall record as arguably one of Long Island’s all-time greatest wrestlers. His 169-match win streak came to an end after suffering a high ankle sprain in practice the week of the Suffolk League I tournament. He was forced to forfeit two matches and finished fourth but still qualified for the sectional tournament. “We had to let go of the win streak and look at the big picture,” said Ward Melville coach Bill DeSario. “He’s so competitive so that wasn’t an easy decision. But in the end the only thing that mattered was finishing the journey and winning a fourth state crown.”
Piccinnini (43-2) roared through the Suffolk tournament to win his fifth Division I title and then became only the second wrestler in Long Island history to win four state titles when he captured the 126-pound crown with a 3-1 decision over Benjamin Lamantia of St. Anthony’s. He has accepted a scholarship to Oklahoma State University. Piccininni is the Long Island Wrestler of the Year for the second time in three years.
HASANI RATHAN, FLOYD TRACK AND FIELD
In perhaps the best possible example of “producing when it counts,” Floyd’s Hasani Rathan did something he’d never done before at the New York State Championships on March 7 at Cornell, clear 6 feet, 10 inches.
The height, which he said was a personal best by 5 inches, separated him from an All-Suffolk final three, which included Smithtown East’s Daniel Claxton (second) and Eastport-South Manor’s Connor Langdon (third).
Because of the harsh winter, Rathan said he had to practice on the Floyd gym floor. While the lack of traction was frustrating at times, he said the adverse practice conditions made jumping on appropriate competition surfaces seem luxurious and may have led to the 6-10 mark.
JAKOB RESTREPO, SACHEM EAST WRESTLING
It was the year of perfection for Sachem East’s Jakob Restrepo. The Flaming Arrow had a 50-0 record and defeated senior Anthony Bell of Fairport, 8-4, to claim the 152-pound title. Restrepo was a takedown specialist and recorded three in the title bout. He became only the third Suffolk wrestler to win 50 or more matches and go undefeated in a season. He was a state runner-up a year ago losing a tough bout to Vin DePrez of Hilton, 3-1, at 145 pounds. His career record is 166-12.
ERIC SHENG, SYOSSET TRACK
Eric Sheng’s name will be etched in history. The senior won the New York State weight throw championship March 7 at Cornell University, tossing 67 feet, 8 1/2 inches. It was the first time the weight throw was contested at the state championships, Syosset coach Chris Myers said.
“I’m happy that I won, but I’m more grateful that they added the weight throw,” Sheng said. “As a hammer thrower, I really don’t do well in the shot put. I’m just happy that they added something I’m good at.”
The historical mark was not lost on Sheng.
“I’m truly honored to win the first ever [championship,]” he said.
ST. ANTHONY'S 200 MEDLEY RELAY
Tyler Meyers, Ben Howard, Zachary Towers and Sean Cannon (pictured) became the first St. Anthony’s relay team to win a state title in Dan McBride’s 25-year tenure as coach, McBride said.
Meyers (backstroke) and Howard (breaststroke) set a good pace through the first half of the relay, at which point Towers (butterfly) and Cannon (freestyle) separated the Friars from the pack for a 1:34.86 finish. “I was just screaming like crazy because we haven’t had that before,” McBride said. “I’ve had individual state champions in the past, but a relay? No. A medley relay? It was something I never thought I would get to experience.”
JACORI TEEMER, LONG BEACH WRESTLING
Jacori Teemer is the only wrestler in Long Island history to win state titles in both his eighth grade and freshman seasons. The talented Long Beach freshman beat Jake Silverstein of Hauppauge, 4-3, in the ultimate tiebreaker (three overtimes). Teemer, who finished the season 44-2 and now has a career record of 92-4 gave Long Beach its 12th state champion. Huntington with 27 champions is the only Long Island school with more. “Jacori is the most dynamic wrestler I’ve ever had,” said Long Beach coach Ray Adams.