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Drop to Division II was boon for Bayport

A scenic run around picturesque Bayport, a midweek scrimmage, a trip to the weight room - Bayport-Blue Point wrestling coach Rich Reilly is willing to try just about anything to keep his team fresh during the nine-day gap between its final dual meet and the start of the Division II county championships on Friday.

But expect the Phantoms, who locked up their first league title since 2000 on Tuesday, to be prepared when they make their return appearance to the Division II level after the last three years in Division I.

Said Reilly of what he told his wrestlers before the season: "If you think for one minute you're gonna steamroll through Division II, and that it's an automatic you're gonna get to states, you're severely mistaken. It's not a cakewalk for anyone."

It's surely seemed that way though. Whereas the Phantoms were generally a .500 team in League VI, they've excelled in League VII (comprised of all 10 of Suffolk's Division II teams), going 9-0 in league and 20-6 overall. Bayport was 8-6 against Division I teams, including wins over Newfield (twice), Harborfields and Deer Park.

"Did I think we were going to go undefeated in the league? No, that's a blessing," Reilly said. "The tough competition day in and day out made us better. The kids had to scratch and claw for every win."

Now it's just a matter of Reilly keeping them focused on the end goal - a trip to Albany for the state tournament.

Said Reilly: "The onus is on me to mix it up."

The shift to Division II certainly shook things up in a good way.

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