Connor Pearce would change nothing. The Suffolk County Dual Meet championship was coming down to the final bout. And he was the main event.
An action-packed tournament final separated Shoreham-Wading River and Brentwood by two team points and the champion would be decided at 126 pounds in a bout between Pearce and Juan Hernandez.
"I’ve trained my whole life to be ready for a moment like this," Pearce said. "The pressure of a team title, the pride in winning for your school and teammates and the chance to be No. 1 were all wrapped in one moment."
Pearce seized the moment.
He suffered a hyperextended right elbow in the first period and was accidentally blasted in the face with a second-period elbow that caused a nosebleed. Despite the pain, Pearce brawled with Hernandez through two very physical periods.
Pearce turned Hernandez to his back for a second-period pin in 3:36, setting off a wild celebration as Shoreham-Wading River came back to beat Brentwood, 36-32, to capture the school’s first Suffolk Dual Meet title. The Division II school became the little school that could, taking out Division I and top-seeded Brentwood (8-1), the League I champion.
Shoreham-Wading River, the League VII champion, finished 9-0.
After the win, Pearce charged from the mat and into the arms of his teammates and they hoisted him upon their shoulders.
With his elbow wrapped in ice and a left nostril stuffed with gauze, Pearce was the picture of happiness after the celebration.
"He was a very physical wrestler, but technique beats physical all the time," Pearce said. "We have extraordinary coaches and they had us ready."
Shoreham’s Chris Colon pinned Jason Euceda in 1:55 at 110 pounds for a 30-27 lead with two bouts left. In the ensuing bout, Brentwood’s Kyle Walker decisioned Tom Palumbo by technical fall, 16-1, to give Brentwood a 32-30 lead, setting up the dramatic final bout.
"These boys were faced with massive challenges, including poor or no facilities, no heat, weekly COVID testing, and schedule changes and they learned to persevere," SWR coach Joe Condon said. "This was no accident that they pulled together and won. We practiced on a snowy field in less than 20 degrees to get our workouts in. Our two wrestling rooms were unavailable. We trained like the Russians — nothing got in our way. They’re tough people and we proved we are, too."
Brentwood won seven bouts to Shoreham's six. But Shoreham pinned in all six wins, including four in the first period by Jake Jablonski (152), Sean Miller (160), Jake Ekert (215) and Dylan Blanco (285).
Two Division II teams that earned first and second place in League VII did battle in the semifinals. Shoreham-Wading River eliminated Glenn, 40-29, as the Wildcats scored first in nine of the 11 bouts contested. Pearce, a two-time state qualifier, set the tone in the very first bout when he pinned Suffolk runner-up Anthony Mirando in 27 seconds at 126 pounds. Glenn (5-2) was beaten by Shoreham, 38-22, earlier this season.
Shoreham won six bouts in a row, including four by pin, capped by 160-pounder Sean Miller over Malcolm Beuka in 1:49. Miller was the fifth of six brothers in the wrestling program.
"Pearce was the big win and started us on the right path," Condon said. "And we told our kids to be the aggressor and have a high attack rate. It’s entertaining, there’s action and everyone wants to watch that kind of active style."
Brentwood erased an 11-point team deficit by winning the final three bouts for a 30-26 victory over Connetquot (7-1) to advance into the championship. Trailing 26-24, Walker pinned Miguel Lozano in 3:14 for the win. Brentwood won seven of the 13 bouts, one of the key wins at 138 pounds where Hector Hernandez edged Devin Shapiro, 3-2.