It may have taken Mepham’s Matt Hegi a little bit of time to get re-adjusted to wrestling after a football season that featured the Pirates' run to the Nassau II semifinals, but the senior has quickly rounded into midseason form.
“It was a little tough to lose weight at first but now since I’m getting into it it’s not as bad,” Hegi said. “It really came down to getting used to those practices, it’s a different kind of tired from football practices.”
Tired or not Hegi put on a dominant performance Dec. 7 at the MacArthur Holiday Tournament, pinning two of his opponents and earning a technical fall in another on the way to winning the 195-pound bracket. For his achievement Hegi is Newsday’s Athlete of the Week.
Hegi started on the bottom in the second period against New Rochelle’s Chris Mejia and admittedly wasn’t able to escape as fast as he hoped. But once he did, he got in tight on Mejia and shot in, forcing Mejia to his knees. When he got up Hegi was able to trip him to his back and secure the pin in 2:46.
“I had never seen him before,” Hegi said. “Sometimes I like to watch video and go in with a plan but it works the same way for the other guy who hasn’t seen me so it wasn’t that big of a deal.”
Hegi, the defending Nassau champion at 195, knows this year will be different as he comes in a marked man.
“It feels different and guys are ready to come after me,” Hegi said. “Beating me gets them a lot of quality points for counties.”
Hegi pinned Locust Valley’s Matt Jones in 5:15 in the MacArthur tourney semifinals and earned a 15-0 technical fall over Isaiah Fernandez of New Rochelle in the first round at MacArthur.
“I knew I was going to have some tough matches and the semifinal was pretty tough,” Hegi said. “I came in fully expecting to win but I think I got a little more competition than I expected. All the guys I wrestled were solid.”
This season is going to be an emotional one for Hegi because it’s the last high school sport he’ll get to play with his twin brother, Ryan, a contender for the Nassau title at 220. The brothers have been on the varsity wrestling team since seventh grade and on the football team since 10th grade, Hegi said.
“It’s great to be able to watch him because usually his matches come after mine,” Hegi said. “This is going to be a special year.”