Joseph Mattei of Herricks, top, is Newsday's Athlete of the...

Joseph Mattei of Herricks, top, is Newsday's Athlete of the Week. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

It was, for good reason, the most nerve-wracking moment of all for any high school wrestler in the state. The finals of the state tournament is unlike anything they’ve ever experienced. It’s the pinnacle of everything.

Joseph Mattei knows — he was there. But, even as the lights tinged a shade brighter last weekend in Albany, the Herricks senior wasn’t intimidated.

“I (can) honestly say that I was the most calm for it,” Mattei said. “I don’t know why. I was more nervous for my matches leading up to the finals, maybe because I was at states.”

By the time Mattei hit the mats for final, the nervous part of the weekend had worn off. And, although he didn’t win that final bout, the experience remained positive. The third-seeded Mattei lost, 7-6, to No. 4 Tyler Reed of Cornwall in the Division I 160 pound final. Mattei led 5-0 and 6-5, but Reed scored a takedown with 1:06 left in the third period to bank the win.

“I had him in a cradle early in the match, was up 5-0, but I couldn’t drive it home,” Mattei said. “But, losses drive me to work harder, and it’ll make me work harder.”

It was a disappointment for Mattei, who is Newsday’s Athlete of the Week, but with a few days of daylight between the bright lights of Saturday evening and the offseason, he’s realizing that ‘finalist’ is still a pretty good moniker.

“Right after the loss, I kind of dwelled on it,” he said. “But, then I realized that not many people do it. It was a huge accomplishment.”

The weekend was much more positive than the bitter ending. Mattei, who was eighth at the state tournament last season and was 42-3 this season, pinned East Islip’s Stephen Coleman in 1:29 in the second round and second-seeded Johnathan Clohecy of Fulton in 2:57 in the semifinals.

Mattei said he was most proud of his 4-2 win over Churchville-Chili’s Coy Raines in the quarterfinals.

“It was a really gritty match,” he said.  “I got a takedown late in the first period and then I rode him out (in the) second and third period.”

Mattei is unsure where wrestling will lead him to next, having not yet committed to college, but he leaves Herricks as one of their best wrestlers ever. He’s the program leader in pins with 138 and wins with 188, said coach Eric Goldberg.

“He has an extremely high IQ, in terms of mat-positioning and mat-awareness,” Goldberg said. “He’s really smart in all scenarios. He knows what he’s doing at all times.” — With Matt Lindsay

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