The expectations for Massapequa's Chase Liardi are higher this year.
After flying under the radar on his way to a county title and state runner-up finish at 99 pounds last season, Liardi is prepared for the spotlight.
“I know I have a target on my back and everyone wants to come after me and everyone wants my head,” Liardi said. “That’s what it’s like being on top.”
Liardi proved himself again Friday, defeating Long Beach’s Jeremiah Echevarria,12-0, to capture the 106 pound title at the Massapequa Holiday Tournament.
The win was also the 100th of the sophomore’s varsity career.
“In eighth grade I was weighing in at 90 pounds and wrestling a bunch of kids coming down from 106,” he said. “I knew I was the underdog, I was the lightest in the entire county bracket. I knew coming in last year would be my year.”
Liardi is hoping to become Massapequa’s first state champion since Mike LaBella in 2003.
“I’ve been on the team since eighth grade and I’ve always been pushing to be the best,” Liardi said. “I strive to be the best, that’s all I’ve ever wanted.”
Massapequa crowned five champions on the Chiefs’ way to a first-place finish with 327 points. Connetquot and Monroe Woodbury tied for second with 218.
“I love our mindset,” Massapequa coach Ron Serrano said. “We know what our goals are and what we expect but we’re always thinking about how we can get better on a daily basis.”
On a night when Massapequa honored its 1998 state title team the current incarnation showed just what they could do on the mat.
“I think it would be a barnburner of a match between that team and this team if we could do it,” Serrano said.
There was no wondering about the best against the best in the 113-pound final -- Hauppauge’s Luke Smith, who finished third in the state last year -- got off to a 4-0 lead and held on to win 6-5 over defending state champion Terry Adams of Monsignor Farrell.
Coming off what he said was a disappointing loss last week, Smith knows what a win like this means.
“Beating Terry, who is an amazing wrestler, puts me back into the discussion of being one of the top wrestlers in the state,” Smith said.
In a match between two defending county champions, South Side/East Rockaway’s Kyle Mosher pinned Division’s DJ Moore in 2:18 at 160.
“We wrestle all the time and I knew he was a very formidable opponent,” Mosher said. “We knew it was either going to be very close or one of us was going to catch the other.”
It also reaffirmed Mosher’s decision to wrestle at 160 this season after mainly going 145 last year.
“I bumped up to 152 some last year so that helped me prepare,” Mosher said. “I came into this season at 165 and I didn’t feel it was necessary to go back down to 152.”
All of Friday’s winners have set themselves up with high expectations going into the new year.