Connetquot's Steven Schmitt moves on Sachem North's Nick Ward in...

Connetquot's Steven Schmitt moves on Sachem North's Nick Ward in the 135 lb. class. (Jan. 21, 2011) Credit: George A. Faella

Junior Joey Gates and sophomore Steven Schmitt stood side by side and watched as Connetquot put the final touches on a big dual-meet win over Suffolk League II rival Sachem North. The two are the key to the middle of a balanced Connetquot lineup and under the spotlight Friday night in Bohemia both came through with pivotal wins.

"These are two guys who've paid their dues and now it's their time in our lineup," Connetquot wrestling coach Bill Santoro said. "Our guys understand that they have to wait for their shot."

Gates turned in a workmanlike 7-2 win over Frank Blais at 130 pounds and Schmitt battled to a 10-6 win over Nick Ward at 135. Those decisions turned a close match into a rout as Connetquot went on to a 49-20 win over Sachem North. The defending League II champion Thunderbirds clinched at least a share of the league title. A win over Whitman in the final dual meet of the season will give Connetquot the title outright.

"I've been wrestling since elementary school and now it's my turn to be a part of a winning program," said Gates, who now has 24 wins. "We work real hard in the offseason and our practices in season get us in great shape. This is a big win in this rivalry."

Gates' win came after teammate Stephen Drew put on a takedown clinic at 125 pounds. Drew beat freshman Matt Marino, 18-6, the third of five consecutive Connetquot wins.

Schmitt opened his bout with a well-timed double-leg takedown but Ward came back with a reversal to tie the score.

"I got the early takedown and then he trapped my leg and rolled through for the reversal," Schmitt said. "He almost caught me but I got the standing switch for the lead and wrestled smart."

"He'd be very tough if he'd stay with the double leg," Santoro said. "He does it so well. But that's something we'll work on more in practice to make him continue to use the move."

Schmitt powered his way for the 10-6 win with a second-period reversal and a third-period takedown to give Connetquot the 28-12 lead. Santoro looked like the genius after bumping up Sean McCabe to 119 to meet the rugged Frank Napoli. McCabe came away with a 4-0 decision.

"It was what the team needed," McCabe said. "He couldn't score but I kept pushing the action."

"We had to come out on top in a few weights to pull out a win," Sachem North coach Ray Pickersgill said. "Those bouts had to go our way."

The Flaming Arrows' Nick Iannello ended Connetquot's run with an 8-4 win over John Keane at 140 to cut the deficit to 28-15. The Thunderbirds won the next four bouts, including pins by Mike Cella and Shaun Gillen at 145 and 152 for a 49-15 lead.

"We're strong throughout the lineup," Drew said. "And beating a strong team like Sachem North is always good."

More High Schools