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Big turnaround by Patchogue-Medford garners Suffolk Division I wrestling crown

Liam Wolf of Patchogue-Medford (white singlet) wrestles of

Liam Wolf of Patchogue-Medford (white singlet) wrestles of Jack Cassidy of Commack (black singlet) in the 160 lbs weight class during the Suffolk Division I dual meet finals at Bay Shore on Jan 25, 2020. Credit: Daniel De Mato

Patchogue-Medford wrestler Liam Wolf looked angry. He had allowed another power takedown by Commack’s Jack Cassidy and as he lay flat on his belly his expression told the story.

Commack, the third seed, had won four of the first five bouts of the Suffolk Division I dual meet championship at Bay Shore High School on Saturday to open a 15-point lead. The Cougars were riding the wave of an incredible 33-32 win over second-seeded Hauppauge in the semifinal round just a few hours earlier.

And here was Wolf, who recorded three pins earlier in the tournament, looking to turn the tide for his Patchogue-Medford squad, and he was losing 12-3 heading into the third period.

“We were in trouble at the moment, as things weren’t looking good,” said Patchogue-Medford coach Tom Anello. “We came out flat and Commack took a big lead. We needed a spark, someone to get us going. And Wolf was our guy.”

Wolf chose the top position in the third period.  

“I didn’t want to let my teammates down,” he said. “I was feeling good and looking for my favorite move.”

Wolf hit a beautiful cradle and came back to beat Cassidy with a stunning pin in 4:48 to give the Raiders just the lift they needed. Patchogue-Medford reeled off five more wins in a row, including two by pin, to erase the 15-point deficit and beat Commack, 42-35, to win the title.

It was Patchogue-Medford’s first dual-meet championship. The Raiders (23-1) also claimed the school’s first regular-season dual meet title in Suffolk League I earlier this season. Anthony Spataro’s pin of Tom Sparling in 58 seconds at 106 pounds gave the Raiders a 42-24 lead and clinched the win.

“We are a complete team,” Anello said. “We have no superstars and we have no holes in our lineup. We are a bunch of talented, gritty wrestlers that do whatever we ask of them to win.”

Wolf was mobbed when he exited the mat. He sent the crowd into a frenzy and the Raiders grabbed the momentum and never looked back.

"I  hit the cradle, locked him up and it was over,” Wolf said. “I got through that awful second period and I was mad at myself.”

Anello said Wolf and teammate James Tomlinson both did the team thing by losing weight and getting down to a lower weight for the dual-meet tournament.

“They gave us the chance to win it all by being unselfish,” Anello said. “Wolf is usually at 170 and he wrestled 160 and Tomlinson is usually at 182 and he went 170 for most of the tournament. Both of their bouts worked out in our favor.”

Evan Louis won by injury default at 170 and Patchogue-Medford crept within 18-15. John Abrams tried to give it a go for Commack at 170 but a right shoulder injury forced him from the mat.

Tomlinson then gave the Raiders their first lead at 19-18 when he won a 12-4 major decision over Evan Bove at 182.  

Patchogue-Medford dominated the upper weights from that point. Alex Bruno beat Soel Melero by technical fall at 195 and Anthony Velasquez and Evan Albrecht turned in back-to-back pins at 220 and 285 for the 36-18 lead.

Velasquez shook off a bloody nose for a rousing win over Danny Goldman at 220. With the score tied at 6, Velasquez started the third period in the top position, his nose stuffed with gauze from an accidental head butt. Velasquez scrambled to stay in control as Goldman looked for the one-point escape and the lead.

“He almost got away and then I reached behind during the scramble and headlocked him to the mat,” said Velasquez, of the pin in 4:52 that crushed Commack’s title hopes.

Anello said what shouldn’t be lost in the run of big wins at the upper weights was the upset win at 145 pounds. Sixth-ranked Nate Bruno decisioned fourth-ranked Mike Waxman, 7-1, for the Raiders' first win.

“I’ve never seen such fantastic duals going on at the same time, the gym was absolutely jumping,” said Matt DeVincenzo, the Suffolk wrestling chairman. “We have such parity in the section this year. Any of the final eight teams in Division I could have been a Suffolk champion.”

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