A scenic run around picturesque Bayport, a midweek scrimmage, a trip to the weight room — Bayport-Blue Point wrestling coach Rich Reilly is willing to try just about anything to keep his team fresh during the nine-day gap between its final dual meet and the start of the Division II county championships on Friday.
But expect the Phantoms, who locked up their first league title since 2000 on Tuesday, to be prepared when they make their return appearance to the Division II level after the last three years in Division I.
Said Reilly of what he told his wrestlers before the season: "If you think for one minute you're gonna steamroll through Division II, and that it's an automatic you're gonna get to states, you're severely mistaken. It's not a cakewalk for anyone."
It's surely seemed that way though. Whereas the Phantoms were generally a .500 team in League VI, they've excelled in League VII (comprised of all 10 of Suffolk's Division II teams), going 9-0 in league and 20-6 overall. Bayport was 8-6 against Division I teams, including wins over Newfield (twice), Harborfields and Deer Park.
"Did I think we were going to go undefeated in the league? No, that's a blessing," Reilly said. "The tough competition day in and day out made us better. The kids had to scratch and claw for every win."
Bayport's enrollment has been under the Division I threshold (600 students in the high school) the past three seasons, but each year Reilly petitioned for entry into the large school class. Before this season, after "a change of heart," Reilly felt Division II would be a good fit for his club.
And it certainly has been, as the team is likely to have at least three wrestlers seeded No. 1 in their respective weight classes at the county tournament.
One of them is Jeff Purdy, a 130-pound junior who is 30-2 on the season. Purdy avenged one of his losses (to Newfield's Tyler Lewis) by pinning him in their return engagement. Said Reilly: "The kid works like an animal. He straps the headgear on and doesn't take it off for two-plus hours. He's always full throttle."
Kasten Carter (171 pounds) is 22-11 on the season, and freshman Ryan Hake (119 pounds) is already a two-time All League performer.
Now it's just a matter of Reilly keeping them focused on the end goal — a trip to Albany for the state tournament.
Said Reilly: "The onus is on me to mix it up."
The shift to Division II certainly shook things up in a good way.