ALBANY - There is no easy road to a state wrestling championship. There are no guarantees. And nothing is a lock. Just ask Stephen Dutton of Rocky Point.
Dutton, Long Island's all-time winningest wrestler and a defending state champion, was hammered by a stomach flu all weekend. The senior battled his way through two excruciating days of competition in which he crawled off the mat on numerous occasions to vomit violently.
"Most guys would lie down and just say forget it," Rocky Point coach Darren Goldstein said. "He was exhausted and had little strength. It was one of the gutsiest performances I have ever seen. What he did was remarkable."
Dutton defeated Jim Kloc of Iroquois, winning by technical fall in 5:59, to claim the 140-pound Division I state championship last night before a crowd of more than 4,000 at the Times Union Center.
"I know there are no guarantees, and look at what happened," said Dutton, who holds the Long Island career record with 227 victories. "I couldn't eat anything because I couldn't keep it down. It was not an easy way to win."
Dutton, a four-time county champion, earned his second state crown and finished with a 48-0 record. He was an overwhelming favorite but barely escaped the semifinal round, as Long Beach sophomore Dylan Palacio gave him all he could handle.
"He was put to the test right there," Goldstein said. "He almost didn't get to the final."
Dutton needed a last-second escape to send the Palacio bout into overtime. He earned a 7-5 win with a takedown 11 seconds into the extra session.
"I cut him loose and gave up the escape at the end," said Palacio, who thought he had a two-point lead at the time. "That really cost me the match. Everyone told me that I couldn't beat him and had no shot. It was like a joke."
No one was laughing when Palacio was seconds away from the biggest upset in the tournament.
"I made a mistake and lost track of the score," he said.
The 15-year-old shook off the loss and came back to win two bouts and place third in the tournament.
Rocky Point became the sixth team in state history to crown three champions in one year. Anthony Volpe earned the 160-pound crown and Billy Coggins won the 171-pound title as the Eagles completed the trifecta of champions.
Coggins edged Wantagh's Joe Kavanagh, 3-2, with a late third-period takedown. His win enabled Rocky Point to capture the state team championship.
"It feels great to win the state title," Volpe said. "It's even better that our team won the team championship."
Suffolk tied a state record with eight individual champions and cruised to the team title with a state-record 2801/2 points.
"We knew there was a shot for the team state title with three excellent guys," Goldstein said. "They all realized a dream this weekend. All of them won individual crowns and the team title was a bonus."