Carlos Banos remembers walking the halls of Central Islip High School a few years ago as a young member of a struggling wrestling team.
“We definitely weren’t popular,” Banos said. “The basketball teams were doing better than us and we were definitely made fun of.”
The Musketeers went 0-13 his freshman year. But they have steadily improved and won six matches in 2016 and seven bouts in 2017.
This might be Central Islip’s best season in quite some time. CI won the Cliff Clark Classic at Bay Shore in December. It was the Musketeers’ first tournament win since they captured the Suffolk League III Tournament in Feb., 1972 according to Newsday records.
“Coach [Brad Brzozinski] called us together midway through the tournament and told us the team scores, and we were leading. We knew we had to keep working hard to win the tournament,” said Banos, a senior captain. “We were pretty hyped after we won. We all celebrated on the bus.”
The Musketeers (5-2) hope there are more celebrations in their future. Central Islip defeated Whitman, 51-18, on Monday as the Musketeers improved to 4-1 in Suffolk League II, good for first place.
“We don’t have a wrestling team banner hanging in our gym,” said Brzozinski, who wrestled collegiately at Virginia Military Institute. “We’ve had three individual state champions over the years, but we want a team banner for this season.”
Besides Banos (195), the Musketeers rely on juniors Malachi Lord-Kelly (182) and Kwesi Amoa (106). All three wrestlers were All-League last season.
“They are all hardworking, dedicated kids,” Brzozinski said.
Brzozinski and Ato Thomas restarted the program in the 1996-97 season. There were only eight wrestlers on the team that year according to Brzozinski. This season, the Musketeers have 48 wrestlers. Brzozinski’s brother, Rick, who wrestled at the University of Virginia, joined the coaching staff in 2000. All three coaches were NCAA Division I wrestlers. (Thomas competed at West Virginia University.)
Banos is mindful of the hard work put into the program by the Musketeers’ three coaches.
“We are all going into them [the two remaining league matches] with the mindset that we want to win both,” said Banos, who has enlisted in the Marine Corps and will attend boot camp this summer. “But this is not really for us. It’s for the coaches. They’ve put in so much time and dedication. We really want to do this for them.”