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LI Division II wrestlers DeVincenzo, Ward, Casella advance

Port Jefferson's Matteo DeVincenzo wins the 99 lb

Port Jefferson's Matteo DeVincenzo wins the 99 lb Division II title. (Feb. 16, 2013) Credit: George A. Faella

ALBANY -- For Long Island's Division II schools it's been a nine-year journey to try to crown their first state champion.

Division II Port Jefferson has waited 25 years to have a wrestler place in the state tournament, and now Matteo DeVincenzo has done it. Nick Casella and Sam Ward of Division II Locust Valley have seen their work paying off.

All three will wrestle on the second day of the state tournament, winning two matches yesterday to move to the semifinals.

The ultimate goal is now in sight. That's nothing new for Casella. The sophomore lost in the 99-pound final last year, 1-0. He won a 4-3 decision yesterday over Andrew Shomers at 113 pounds to advance to the semifinals. He's envisioning a different result this year.

"I always picture in my mind that I win," he said. "I'm just going to out there and wrestle as tough as I can and see what happens."

Ward, a sophomore who spent last season at St. Anthony's and placed third in the state CHSAA tournament, is a big threat at 132. He was at the public school tournament last year but not in the capacity he had hoped for.

"I came here to watch last year and seeing the event happen I told myself I never want to be here as a spectator again," he said. "I want to be competing."

After his 7-3 decision over Ryan Kromer in a quarterfinal, he'll get his wish.

Casella and Ward match the most place-winners a Nassau Division II school has had in one tournament.

"It's going to happen -- I hope it happens this weekend but I know it's just a matter of time," Locust Valley coach Joe Enea said about a Division II wrestler from L.I. winning a state championship. "It would be fitting for the first [champion] to come from Locust Valley."

If not Locust Valley, it could be DeVincenzo at 99 pounds who finally brings a state championship to L.I. An upset in the quarters knocked No. 1 seed Hunter Olena of East Rochester out of the winner's bracket and opens the door for the Port Jefferson freshman.

It took a 3-2 double overtime win over Ryan Hetrick for DeVincenzo to get into the semifinals and it will take an even greater effort to get to the final.

"You can tell when a wrestler says 'I'm not going to lose this match,' " Port Jefferson coach Mike Maletta said. "He refused to lose and now we have an all-state guy."

The competition will be tough but not the only issue facing Maletta and his coaching staff in the second day.

"Now we have to go out and buy suits," Maletta said.

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