LOCH SHELDRAKE, N.Y. — Sam Khodaparest stepped onto the podium and immediately lifted his arms, smiling for the cameras in front of him.
He wanted to celebrate.
The Massapequa senior came into the Eastern States Classic at SUNY Sullivan as the eighth seed, but held his own throughout the two-day event and, on Saturday evening, captured the 285-pound title, defeating Brentwood’s London Castillo 8-6.
Eastport-South Manor’s Zach Redding, the second seed, also clinched a title, topping No. 1 Ryan Jack of Danbury, 8-6, at 132 pounds. No. 2 Jordan Titus, a junior from Center Moriches, defeated top-seeded Anthony Noto of Honeoye Falls-Lima 9-4 in the 120-pound final.
“I was proving everyone wrong,” Khodaparest said. “It’s all about motivation. I was working, staying in my head. I had the toughness and fought through adversity.”
Khodaparest battled through three tight matches on Saturday, including a 3-2 ultimate tie break against top seed Myles Norris of Freeport in the quarterfinals and a 3-2 double OT victory in semis. Massapequa coach Ron Serrano credited Khodaparest for his mindset, adding, “it’s about how you handle your emotions.”
“He got momentum as the tournament went on,” Serrano said.
After falling into a hole against Castillo, the sixth seed, Khodaparest answered with four-second period points. Castillo did his best to rally, making it 8-6 with less than 30 seconds left, but Khodaparest held on for the statement-making victory.
“Wrestling smart is the best,” Khodaparest said. “If you’re wrestling smart, wrestling defensive, and taking advantage of every opportunity you get, you’ll be successful.”
With Khodaparest seizing his spotlight, Redding, one of the top wrestlers in the country, continued to embrace his.
The senior jumped out to a 7-3 lead after the first two periods, but Danbury’s Jack responded in the third, making it 7-6 with just under a minute left. Redding didn’t flinch. Instead, he said, he thought, “stay focused, keep wrestling,” looking for his opening while avoiding a late stalemate.
It worked, as Redding kept Jack from making a move and grabbed his own final-second point to stay undefeated on the season.
“I’m pretty much on cloud nine,” Redding said. “It was a lot of heavy hand fighting. I was moving him and trying to keep my hands and feet at the same time.”
Redding admitted that while there is pressure to perform, he’s also thrived on it, taking a leadership role with the Sharks after five-time state champion Adam Busiello graduated last year.
“You can use that pressure to get excited,” Redding said. “That helps me wrestle better.”
Eastport-South Manor coach Nick Garone echoed Redding, saying “it’s been great to see him blossom and become that guy.”
“Now, (Redding is) that leader in the room,” Garone said. “He’s done that all year and this is an incredible, big win for him.”
Titus’ win had an air of revenge to it.
The defending state champ in Division II at 120 pounds said he’d lost to Noto “so many times,” including at past state tournaments, and came into this match determined to not let history repeat. He hit his offensive stride early, after giving up the first two points, and set Noto back on his heels.
“I get taken down first a lot, which isn’t that good, but I knew I had to keep my head,” Titus said. “If I keep wrestling the way I know I can, I’ll get the win.”
“All tournament and all year, Jordan has been so much more offensive,” Center Moriches coach Michael Koscinski said. “Once Jordan gets that in his head, he’s going to score points.”
It was a big-time day for Long Island wrestlers, but no matter how their wins came, they’re all counting on them as confidence boosts, looking to make deep runs at states.
“This is big,” Titus said. “I feel like nobody can beat me right now.”