There are inflection points in a state championship season that require time and a big picture view to see.
And then there are moments where split-second decisions can impact it all.
For Locust Valley senior Gage DeNatale the decision to train with former state champion and UFC veteran Gregor Gillespie was a choice that helped lead him to the 132-pound final of the Division II state wrestling tournament Saturday night in Albany.
His ability to stay cool and collected and immediately reverse the few bad positions he was in during the match was what put him on top.
DeNatale, the top seed, defeated Dean Shambo of Mexico, 6-5, in a match that came down to the wire at the Times Union Center.
“I can’t even tell you how many hours I have put into this,” DeNatale said. “All this training and hard work paid off. This means the world to me and I’m just so thankful that I had the opportunity to do this.”
DeNatale led 2-0 in the second period before Shambo got a takedown to tie the score. But DeNatale quickly reversed the position to jump back ahead 4-2. A Shambo reversal with a minute remaining in the bout made it 4-4. DeNatale came close to being put to his back with under 20 seconds remaining before scrambling to get a reversal to take the lead and secure the title.
“Gage has an ability that not everybody has to be able to stay cool in tough positions and situations,” Gillespie said. “He’s with me working out at least three times a week and that’s on top of his other workouts and practices.”
DeNatale came in as the number one seed and knew he was there to do something special.
“I came here with a mission and I made it happen,” DeNatale said. “I knew I was going to win the whole time and I didn’t doubt myself once.”
The big moment for Christian Hansen came when he decided to return to his home district after two years at St. Anthony’s. Though he won two CHSAA state titles Hansen came up short both times at the public state tournament.
“My goal the entire time was to win states,” Hansen said.
He did it Saturday, winning the 152 pound final over Nick Ross of Onteora, 6-2.
“After my last match yesterday I was overweight and I could have given up right there,” Hansen said. “But I went back to the hotel and I only had to run for 30 minutes — and what’s 30 minutes for a state championship?”
Hansen’s last appearance at the state tournament with Cold Spring Harbor came at 99 pounds as a seventh grader.
“When I’ve been here previously I’ve just been happy to be here, but this year I came to win,” Hansen said. “I’ve been on top of my diet, my parents have been really supportive and I came back to this school and I’m really happy here and it made all the difference.”