SYRACUSE — The hopes of a state championship match between Long Island teams came up short by one round.
Wantagh and East Islip’s wrestling teams were each eliminated in the Division I semifinals of the state public school dual meet championships Saturday at SRC Arena and Events Center.
Wantagh lost 36-26 to Starpoint (Pendleton), while Minisink Valley defeated East Islip, 45-13.
Despite the absence of senior Ryan Arbeit due to illness, Wantagh cruised through the early rounds. But Wantagh was forced to shift its lineup to try to fill the void.
“The kids wrestled tough, I was really proud of them,” Wantagh coach Paul Gillespie said. “We need to do a better job of filling in when we have an injury or an illness. We were compromised, but as I tell the kids, there’s no excuses.”
Wantagh defeated Horseheads, 51-15, in the first round and took a 54-15 victory over Burnt Hills to advance to the semifinals.
Gillespie knew Starpoint would present his team with its largest challenge yet.
“It’s going to be a tough match. We’re going to need the kids to really step up,” Gillespie said before the match.
It lived up to the expectations. Wantagh (29-1) trailed by four points entering the final match at 138 pounds, in which Starpoint’s Griffin LaPlante pinned Dominic Krug in 1:37 to end Wantagh’s run.
“It was a barn burner. It was really great wrestling throughout,” Gillespie said. .
Starpoint (27-0) was the eventual champion, defeating Minisink Valley, 35-27.
“We exceeded all expectations and I’m proud of every single one of my teammates for that,” Wantagh senior Noah Corwin said.
Corwin (31-6) was one of several Wantagh wrestlers to win all three of his matches Saturday. He defeated Landon Grainy via 8-0 major decision at 189 pounds in the semifinals and earned pins at 172 pounds in the early rounds over Liam Levantovich of Horseheads in 1:25 and Burnt Hills’ Thomas Pawlinga in 1:03.
It was Wantagh’s second straight appearance in the tournament and third overall. Wantagh won the title in 2018 and lost to Minisink Valley in last year’s final.
While East Islip fell to Minisink Valley in the semifinals, it made some noise in its first appearance in the tournament.
East Islip lost in the first round, 35-32, against Ballston Spa. With only one team from each three-team pool advancing to the semifinals, East Islip needed some help.
It needed to score as many points as possible in a win against Hilton to hope for a three-way tie. In the must-win match, East Islip racked up six pins en route to a 46-21 victory.
At that point, all East Islip could do was sit and wait to see if it would advance to the semifinals. It worked out perfectly. In the final qualifying round, Hilton defeated Ballston Spa, 36-34.
In a three-way tie, the team with the most total points advances. Hilton had 57 points and Ballston Spa had 69. East Islip led the way with 78..
“A lot of it is about matchups,” East Islip coach Mike Longobardi said. “We lost our first match because we had a couple of bad matchups. We wrestled much better against Hilton and we felt that they would be a bad matchup for Ballston Spa. It just goes to show that anything can happen.”
“We faced great competition all day,” said junior Sebastian Regis. “We lost our first match, but we bounced right back in the second round. Then we ran into a really great team in Minisink Valley.”
Regis, Rocco DeStefano and Anthony Liedtke accounted for the three matches East Islip won against Minisink Valley (28-1).
Regis (41-1) won all three of his matches at 285 pounds. He pinned Aiden Grove in 52 seconds in the semifinal, pinned Hilton’s Chris Fronczak in 1:34 and won via forfeit against Ballston Spa.
Whether East Islip (26-2) had a huge lead or was in an insurmountable hole, each of its wrestlers fought until the very end. That’s all Longobardi asks of his team.
“It’s more of a mentality thing,” Longobardi said. “We tell our kids, ‘win, lose or draw, you’re fighting for six minutes.’ You can tell that’s what they do when they step on the mat.”