Martin Jensen kept pushing forward.
After the Kellenberg wrestler allowed Mike Gruttolori of St. Francis to escape and take a lead at the beginning of the third round in their championship match at 182 pounds, Jensen knew he had some hard work ahead.
He was unable to take Gruttolori down in the final two minutes of regulation, but his relentless effort forced Gruttolori to backpedal, drawing two stalling calls to tie the match in the final five seconds.
Jensen continued to work and earned an elusive takedown in overtime to win the title, 5-3, Sunday during CHSAA state finals at Holy Trinity High School.
“When I was down I couldn’t believe I was able to come back like that,” Jensen said. “This was my last push, it’s my senior year and it’s now or never. I walked off the mat and I was shocked, I couldn’t believe that it happened.”
Jensen was one of five Long Island wrestlers to ascend to the top of the podium Sunday, including Michael D’Onofrio of St. John the Baptist, who won the Cougars first CHSAA state title since 2001, according to coach David Bartoli.
D’Onofrio pinned John Baloga of St. Anthony’s in 5:12 at 113 pounds.
“It’s just surreal,” D’Onofrio said. “I’m just glad I had the opportunity to make my senior year really count.”
Said Bartoli: “We’ve put a lot of guys out in finals and haven’t been able to break through — finally the curse has been lifted for St. John.”
They’ll be joined by three wrestlers from team champion St. Anthony’s at the NYSPHSAA state championship in Albany.
Chris Mulford was the first to advance after defeating Kyle Bhojwani of Holy Trinity, 3-0, at 145. It was the second time in as many weeks that Mulford and Bhojwani met, with Mulford winning, 5-2, last week in the League final.
“I knew I had to wrestle my best and just react and keep going the entire match,” Mulford said. “When you score the first takedown it breaks the kid a little bit but it’s the second takedown or the second score — whether you get an escape or ride him out so he can’t get any points — when you break him in the match and that’s how a good wrestler wins. Anyone can be skilled or train hard and be in good shape but it comes down to that.”
Mulford was followed to the top of the podium by teammates Russell Kohler (195) and Maguire Horl (220).