Devin Downes, Plainedge defeats Leo Venables of Carmel in the...

Devin Downes, Plainedge defeats Leo Venables of Carmel in the 170lb Division I final match at the 2024 NYSPHSAA wrestling championships on Saturday Feb. 24, 2024, at the MVP Arena in Albany, N.Y. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

ALBANY -- Devin Downes locked up senior Leo Venables of Carmel for one last takedown.

The Plainedge sophomore was on the cusp of a state championship in the 170-pound weight class, and he was pushing the action. There would be no regrets – no looking back at what could have been. It was go-time for Downes.

“I knew what was on the line,” Downes said. “And I felt like my conditioning would be the difference.”
Downes used the late takedown for a 6-3 lead in a 6-4 win over third-seeded Venables to win the 170-pound state championship in the MVP Arena. Downes (54-2) became the third state champion in Plainedge school history and the first in 11 years when Dan Spurgeon won the crown in 2012.

“He’s the toughest kid of all,” Plainedge coach Rob Shaver said. “He’s a guy that works out every day. His gas tank is never empty and he’s super strong. He can deadlift more than 500 pounds.”
Downes had an incredible tournament. He eliminated top-seeded Johnathan Clohecy of Fulton in the semifinal round, 5-4. And he beat fifth-seeded Landon Lazarek of Hilton 6-5 in a tight quarterfinal match.

“He’s another link between our wrestling and football programs,” Shaver said. “It is unmistakable. The two programs go hand and hand.”
Plainedge is on top of the wrestling world. The Red Devils won the state dual meet championship and the Nassau County sectional tournament. They qualified three wrestlers to the final round. Junior Luke Nieto dropped a 9-4 decision to senior Amir Avazov (47-4) of James Madison at 138 pounds and finished with a 50-2 record. Senior Vin Petzold got pinned in 2:16 by senior Stephan Monchery of Middletown at 285 pounds. Petzold finished at 51-3.

“We ran a full lineup out there in every weight class this year and we had balance in our lineup,” Shaver said. “I’m proud of our guys and all that they accomplished.”

Former alum Matt Rich assists on the varsity and runs the youth wrestling program in Plainedge. Likewise, assistant coach Andrew Rakitzis, a former alum, helps at all levels from the middle school program through the varsity. Rich feels it’s about the community and the trust they have in the winning product.

“The youth in our community see the results and they believe in it and want to be a part of our program,” Rich said. “We have more than 100 kids in our youth program and 50 in our middle school program. Coach said it kind of breeds itself. And that’s why we are finding such success.”

Shaver added, “I really believe having two guys that come from the program and a Dad that knows the kids in the community is the key here. If you look at any program where a Dad has coached his son in wrestling the results are successful. My son Travis played football and more football players followed his lead and came out for wrestling and we’ve never looked back. There is a winning connection between the sports.”

Shaver rattled off 10 schools that had the father-son effect like the Patrovich family in Connetquot and Islip and the Messina family in Hauppauge and the Greenblatt family in Massapequa to name a few.

Plainedge is breeding winners on the gridiron and on the mat.

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