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Connetquot beats Sachem North, wins League II title

Connetquot's John Zullo (left, top), works on Sachem's

Connetquot's John Zullo (left, top), works on Sachem's Billy Turner (lright, bottom), during their match at Sachem North High School. (Jan. 28, 2010) Credit: Photo by Richard Slattery

This was the way it was supposed to end for three senior captains who've been close varsity teammates since the eighth grade. They wanted to go out on top.

For Nick Castellanos, Connor Gribbin and James McCabe, this was what Connetquot coach Bill Santoro was selling to the junior high wrestlers five years ago.

"Coach Santoro told us to give him a great work ethic and dedicate ourselves to the sport and we'd be champions," said Gribbin, a two-time defending league champion and All-County wrestler. "This is a big accomplishment. This is what we signed up for. It's a total team effort."

Junior Joe Zullo earned a hard-fought 5-2 decision over Billy Turner as Connetquot opened a 35-0 lead on its way to a 56-19 dual-meet win over host Sachem North last night. The win gave Connetquot its sixth League II dual-meet championship in the past seven years.

The Thunderbirds had six pins, including back-to-back first-period falls by the McCabe brothers. Sophomore Sean McCabe flattened Brandon Hegardy in 1:45 at 112 pounds and James McCabe, a three-time defending league champion, pinned Taylor Hegardy in 1:44 at 119 pounds.

"We have an excellent KID wrestling program and our junior high coaches have done an outstanding job," Santoro said. "When they get to this level, they're ready to go."

Santoro was especially proud of his three captains. For the first time in his 32 years, he had three wrestlers surpass the century plateau for wins in the same season. Castellanos, who pinned Tyler Itzkowitz in 1:35 at 140 pounds; Gribbin, who beat Nick Iannello, 8-0, at 135 and McCabe all reached 100 wins this season.

"We were all 96-pounders and good friends in the eighth grade," Gribbin said. "And I think Coach knew he had something special with our group."

Connetquot, which has a 65-6 dual- meet record in the past seven years, is 12-0 this season and ranked fourth in Newsday's dual-meet poll.

Sachem North suffered a severe blow to its lineup when 160-pound senior Dan Agostinelli was forced to default to rugged junior Nick Lobue. Leading 6-2, Lobue lifted Agostinelli off the mat for a takedown and the Sachem wrestler landed on his head. He was rushed from the gym to Stony Brook University Hospital, where he was resting comfortably after being diagnosed with a separated left shoulder and a sprained neck.

"It was very scary because I thought he hurt his neck badly," said his father, Sal Agostinelli. "He landed awkwardly. It was two very tough kids going at it, and these things happen."

It was Agostinelli's first league loss. Lobue is 26-4 and will be the top seed in the league tournament. "I lifted him and he fell wrong," Lobue said. "I hope he's all right. I was just going for the pin."In a show of class, Sachem North coach Ray Pickersgill had the announcer congratulate Connetquot on its league title.

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