Tommy Cox is a lesson in perseverance. He’s experienced the disappointment of two gut-wrenching losses in the Suffolk finals, both by two points, with one in overtime. But there would be no third time for disappointment.
The Deer Park senior pounded his way through the Suffolk tournament with a pin and two wins by major decision to make his third appearance in the championship round.
This time Cox used two takedowns and three near fall points in the third period to beat highly regarded Anthony Cirillo of Rocky Point, 8-2, to win the 113-pound crown at the Dr. Robert Fallot Memorial Suffolk wrestling championships Sunday night before a packed house at Hofstra.
“It was devastating to lose in the finals,” said Cox, who will wrestle at North Carolina State. “It hurts so badly, but it also drives you to work harder and come back and win. It sets you back, but you have to keep going. This was my senior year and I wanted to make the most of it.”
It wasn’t going to be easy. Cox and Cirillo were one of the featured finals at 113 pounds. The two had totaled 319 career wins and came in with impressive records this season. Cox improved to 40-1 with a 159-24 career record and Cirillo fell to 34-2 and 161-13.
In the final, Cox hit a shrug for a 2-1 second-period lead before Cirillo escaped to tie it at 2.
“He had a game plan for weeks for Cirillo,” Deer Park coach Mike McLaughlin said. “He studied him and waited for his shot. When the opportunity presented itself, he was all over it. He’s lost heartbreakers on the big stage. This is a great win for a deserving kid.”
Cox soaked in the congratulatory hugs and handshakes afterward. “I stayed in good position,” Cox said. “And I was patient.”
Rocky Point coach Darren Goldstein said Cox was quick and beat Cirillo to the punch. “They’ll meet again upstate,” Goldstein said. “ . . . Cox stayed low in his stance. And he was so explosive and quick and beat us on our feet.”
The most explosive wrestler in Suffolk turned in another brilliant performance. Eastport-South Manor’s Adam Busiello, the No. 1-ranked wrestler in the country according to InterMat magazine, pinned four consecutive opponents at 106 pounds on his way to his third Suffolk title.
Busiello improved to 46-0 and 142-7 in his career by pinning Shoreham-Wading River’s Kevin Meloni in 3:06. Busiello used a step-over into a throw for the big move and the pin.
Meloni (34-3), a three-time Suffolk VI champion, came out aggressively against the two-time state champion.
“Kevin went out and went after him and got in two good shots,” Shoreham-Wading River coach Joe Condon said. “Busiello was just too good, and he’s a national champion for a reason. That was a fancy step-over for the win.”
Busiello moves on to the state tournament in Albany on Feb. 26-27. “I respect that he came after me,” Busiello said. “He was real strong and a very good wrestler, but I was actually very happy with my tournament. Now it’s time to focus on the state tournament.”
Rocky Point led the team scoring throughout the tournament, but all three of the Eagles’ finalists were beaten at 113, 132 and 138. The 1 1⁄2-point lead evaporated when Hauppauge’s Chris Mauriello pinned Lindenhurst’s Billy Sims in 38 seconds for the 152-pound crown. Mauriello’s big win clinched the team title for Hauppauge, which had lost to Rocky Point for the Suffolk V title and the Suffolk dual meet championship.