Jaison White said 40 years was much too long. The senior felt it was time for Jericho to crown another wrestling champion. Then he did something about it.
"We were so close last year with Jun Yoo in the finals," White said. "Our program is improving and a county champion would really validate that improvement. So I couldn't fail. It was time."
It certainly was. A determined White used two takedowns to edge Freeport's Julius Diaz, 5-4, and claim the 160-pound title Sunday night at the Nassau County wrestling championships at David S. Mack Arena at Hofstra University. White became the first Jericho wrestling champion since Ron Richmond won the 119-pound title in 1974.
"It feels great," said White, who improved to 34-0. "It gives all of our guys in the room confidence that we can win just like the wrestlers at Wantagh and MacArthur. They will believe now that hard work and dedication works in any room for any team."
White took a 3-1 lead in the second period and a 5-2 lead with another third-period takedown. His forte the entire tournament was to out-slick his opponents.
"It's a very proud day for our program," Jericho coach Kevin Brodsky said.
It was a big night for Syosset freshman Vito Arujau. He was the only wrestler to beat Wantagh defending state champion Kyle Quinn this season. And the two met up again in Sunday night's 113-pound final.
"We're two very aggressive wrestlers and we have very physical matches," Arujau said. "Most matches come down to the first takedown."
Arujau scored the first takedown after three hard scrambles in which each of the wrestlers failed to gain an advantage. Quinn, a junior, and the defending 106-pound state champion, gained an escape before the period ended to cut the deficit to 2-1. After a scoreless second period, Arajau (41-0) scored a reversal for the 4-1 win. It was the third time Arujau beat Quinn (37-3) this season.
"I lost the state championship in a ride out and all I think about is getting back to the state tournament and winning it," Arujau said. "I felt confident coming in against Quinn but you never know, so you have to be as prepared as possible."
Freshman Peter Pappas (37-0) became Plainview JFK's first Nassau champ in 16 years when he beat Joel Zambrano of Mepham by technical fall, 16-0, in 3:49 at 106 pounds.
"I beat him 7-0 the first time we wrestled but this time I was more aggressive and stayed in a good position," said Pappas, who finished third at 99 pounds.
"It makes all the hard work worth it and now I have to continue to work for the state tournament."
Plainview's last Nassau champ was Ryan Pingatore in 1998, who is now the head coach at Great Neck South.
The night was filled with stunning comebacks. Raeco Jackson of Westbury used a five-point move in the third period to wipe out a 4-2 deficit and come back for a 7-4 win over Syosset's Nick Rondino for the 120-pound title.
In one of the more entertaining finals, Garden City's Jack Reina upended top seed Adrian Berry of Uniondale, 6-4, at 132 pounds. Tied at 4 with 32 seconds left, Reina gained a reversal and then held off a hard-charging Berry for the victory.