Wrestling coach Ray Hanley is mapping Wantagh's path to another state championship appearance.
The 19th annual Patrick J. Butler Memorial Wrestling Tournament at Seaford High School on Saturday gave his wrestlers a taste of what's to come.
Wantagh, the defending Nassau Division I champion and state-runner up, matched up against Long Beach, a Top-5 finisher at last year’s county championship.
"It’ll be us and [Long Beach] down the road," Hanley said. "It’s been us and them the last couple of years, so this was just a warm-up for the end of the year."
Wantagh’s Joseph Clem, Ryan Arbeit and Noah Corwin, all defending county champions, pinned their Long Beach opponents as Wantagh fought to a 37-28 victory.
But the team's other two wrestlers made the difference.
Anthony Clem, Joseph's brother, won a match that guided Wantagh through the day.
Anthony Clem defeated Long Beach’s Dunia Sibomana-Rodriguez, the defending state champion at 102 pounds, in a 6-2 regular decision at 118 pounds and Wantagh won its next four matches.
“I was super nervous, but I needed to win for the team,” Anthony Clem said. “We all get really hyped for each other, and that’s when our lineup starts to get really good.”
But the momentum from Anthony Clem’s upset faded as Long Beach dug into its heavier weight classes. Two pins at 189 pounds and 215 pounds brought the team score within three points before the final match.
Andrew Perez, Wantagh's 285-pound wrestler, trailed Long Beach’s Tyler Colclough 11-3 before the third and final period..
Perez managed to get a reversal on his opponent and pinned him.
“He was on top of me, but I told myself I had to get up, I had to get out,” Perez said. “I felt like I had to get the pin, or I’d lose it for my team.”
The Wantagh bench erupted as Perez stomped his foot at the center of the mat in triumph."
"When Anthony Clem beat Dunia, that was a big win," Hanley said. "That kind of snowballed for us. They came back tough, I tip my hat to Long Beach for coming back, but once we got that one upper hand, that was the most important match of the day.
"In the long run, it comes down to the kids. We teach them in practice don't give up. We're fortunate with a win today."
Wantagh and Long Beach won their next two matches at the four-team invitational. Wantagh defeated Uniondale, 49-9, then Seaford, 57-9. Long Beach beat Seaford, 63-6, then Uniondale, 60-12. Seaford beat Uniondale, 45-27, in the other match.
Seaford High School hosts the Patrick J. Butler Memorial Wrestling Tournament in honor of former Vikings wrestler Patrick J. Butler, who died in a car accident in 2004.
"We always seek out the best competition," Long Beach coach Ray Adams said. "Wantagh is perennially one of the top teams in New York. I think they motivate us and I’d like to think we motivate them."
"We're happy that we had that match," Adams added.