Dunia Sibomana-Rodriguez of Long Beach wrestles Peyton Hubbard of Chenango Falls...

Dunia Sibomana-Rodriguez of Long Beach wrestles Peyton Hubbard of Chenango Falls at 108 pounds in the Division I Round of 16 at the 2024 NYSPHSAA wrestling championships on Friday at the MVP Arena in Albany, N.Y Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

ALBANY – Dunia Sibomana-Rodriguez walked out of the MVP Arena last February with a scowl. The usually even-keeled, unflappable Long Beach freshman suffered a heartbreaking one-point loss in the state semifinal round which stopped him from winning a second straight championship.

Lofty expectations can lead to bitter disappointment and Sibomana-Rodriguez came up short.

“It bothered me more because I had the lead and made a mistake,” Sibomana-Rodriguez said. “And all it takes is one mistake at the state tournament and the dream ends. But you learn and become a better wrestler.”

The experience put him on the road to redemption.

He is back at the state tournament with a vengeance.

Sibomana-Rodriguez was in the MVP Arena on Friday and cruised through the first two rounds of the 108-pound weight class in the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association Division I tournament before a packed house of more than 5,000 fans.

He pinned junior Peyton Hubbard of Chenango Forks in 3:34 and then beat Manhasset sophomore Will Russell, 10-1, in a quarterfinal bout. Sibomana-Rodriguez (41-2) will meet Longwood freshman Anthony Lagala-Ryan (45-2) in Saturday morning’s semifinal.

Lagala-Ryan, the fifth seed, experienced his own bit of redemption when he pinned Hauppauge junior Connor Sheridan in 3:04 in the quarterfinal round. Sheridan had beaten Lagala-Ryan, 6-2, for the Suffolk crown just two weeks ago. It was Lagala-Ryan’s second pin of the tournament.

“I was very proud of Dunia last year after he lost,” Long Beach coach Ray Adams said. “He showed the character of a true champion and worked his way back to a third-place finish — and that has meaning. He has been so focused this season and wrestling against top guys. Russell is one of the best guys in the weight class in the state. He won’t look past anyone after such a tough loss last year.”

He would love to put on that big smile and back flip Saturday night that punctuated his state wrestling championship in his eighth-grade season. But he has too much respect for Lagala-Ryan and anyone else that steps on the mat with him in the next 24 hours.

“I don’t look back, only forward,” he said. “It’s been a smooth ride this season with the exception of a few minor injuries. I have found balance in my workout regimen and total support from my family. I have a tough semifinal matchup — that’s my focus.”

Nassau and Suffolk combined to send 65 wrestlers to the Division I state tournament. Only 14 advanced into the semifinal round on Saturday morning; seven qualifiers each from Nassau and Suffolk.

Plainedge senior Shane Dobbins suffered a concussion in his quarterfinal bout with senior Dillon Arrick of Arlington at 124 pounds. The two smacked heads and Arrick was called for an intentional head butt. Dobbins was ruled unable to continue and won the bout by disqualification.

“Dobbins was knocked out,” Plainedge coach Matt Rich said. “He did nothing wrong and is forced to end his high school career with an injury. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Dobbins advanced to the semifinal round where he will have to forfeit by injury default. Arrick will move into the wrestle back bracket.

“When you suffer a concussion, your body needs time to heal,” said Dr. Anthony Donatelli, the tournament physician. “It’s when an athlete goes back too early and gets injured a second time is when the real damage is done. I hate to remove an athlete from a tournament — but I’m here for their safety. And he is not wrestling anymore.”

Dobbins (31-6) earned a sixth-place finish for reaching the semifinals.

The beneficiary of Dobbins' inability to continue will be Northport senior Matt Marlow (40-5). He will get a bye in the semifinal round at 124 pounds and move into Saturday night’s final against the winner of Valley Central junior Luke Satriano (38-4), the defending state champion at 110 pounds, and Wantagh senior Anthony Clem (45-3). Marlow is looking to become Long Island’s 10th wrestler to win at least three state Division I titles.

Anthony Clem and his brother Joe Clem, a Wantagh senior at 131 pounds could become the first brothers to win state titles in the same year since Carl and Al DeStefanis of Locust Valley won the 98- and 105-pound titles respectively in 1979. Joe Clem (55-3) beat Plainedge freshman Jake Nieto in the quarterfinal round, 5-2.

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