Coach Robert Paletta knew in order for MacArthur to defeat Mepham in the penultimate Nassau Conference II wrestling match, he had to rely on the smaller and younger guys.
“It’s a league match and a must win for us. Mepham’s lower weight classes are tough competition,” Paletta said. “We had to beat them at the lower weights.”
And MacArthur did, dominating the lower divisions. Jake Schneider defeated Greg Gibbons at 99 pounds by major decision, 15-4, and Nick Dougherty pinned Panos Sigalas in 1:46 at 113 pounds to lead the Generals over Mepham, 58-19, on Wednesday night.
Dougherty’s pin kept MacArthur (4-0) in the lead for the rest of the meet. The freshman is making a name for himself. Last season, he was a match away from making All-County status.
“He’s a ninth grader who’s coming up big in big moments,” Paletta said.
Wednesday’s meet was no different.
“I walked in little nervous,” Dougherty (18-5) said. “[Sigalas] took a shot. I sprawled and I pinned him.”
Schneider (20-4) is an eighth grader. His win over Gibbons is a notable notch on his belt.
“I scored first, and scoring first is big because it can get in my opponents head,” Schneider said. “Toward the end of the match I still had the decision, which is only three points for the team. I knew we wanted the major so I kept calm and scored more to secure the major decision.”
Schneider says staying serene in these situations is key, regardless of his age.
“Being in 8th grade can be scary sometimes but I prepare for my matches,” Schneider said. “I take it easy and relax and let my wrestling do the talking.”
MacArthur wrestling is basically bellowing at the competition. Currently, the Generals are undefeated and will face Manhasset, who is also undefeated, on Jan. 18, in the league final.
In case the people in the back didn’t hear, MacArthur is coming.
“These guys are young guys, who have nerves of steel,” Paletta said. “We’re ranked out of the top 10 for the first time in 20 years. We’re wrestling with a chip on our shoulders. It’s going to be a showdown.”