The wrestling state championship has typically been a showcase for Long Island wrestlers. On Feb. 26 at Albany's Times Union Center, six of the Island's best emerged to be crowned state champion. Five came from Suffolk, one from Nassau. One concluded a stunning streak, while two more pinned their way into history. And each one of the six champions battled through a two-day tournament to be the last wrestler standing.
Nigel McNeil, Huntington
McNeil's last two years were as remarkable as any Long Island wrestler in recent memory. He won the 119-pound state championship (following his 112-pound title in 2010) to cap an 80-match winning streak dating back to 2009. To boot, his two state titles match those won by cousin Gene McNeil, also of Huntington HS, in 1984 and '86. He also won two Suffolk and two League V championships. At the state tourney, he won each of four matches by at least five points. It was a fitting end to two-plus years of dominance.
Joe Kavanagh, Wantagh
Kavanagh ended his 189-pound state final the way he ended most of his matches. The senior pinned Mt. Sinai's Frank Abbondanza at 3:39 to cap arguably the tournament's most dominant individual performance. Kavanagh, 38-0 for the year, registered nine pins in less than a minute. He never wavered throughout a banner senior season, pinning foe after foe in relentless fashion. At the Nassau championship, he went 4-0 with three pins against top-notch competition. At states, with his pin of Abbondanza he only confirmed his reputation as the "pin master" of Long Island.
Kyle Wade, Islip
If McNeil was Suffolk's most dominant wrestler, then the 152-pound Wade close second. At 41-0, he cruised to the state title after finishing second at 152 in 2010. During a four-week stretch early in the season, he won 14 consecutive matches via pin. As the competition rose, the number of pins fell, but when faced with close matches, Wade prevailed. He won both his state semifinal and finals match by identical 5-3 scores. But just as he did the entire season, he found a way to win.
Anthony Abidin, Hills East
Abidin (125) might be the unlikeliest state champion of the group. Alex Gomez, Brentwood's 125-pound ace and one of the best pound-for-pound grapplers on Long Island, was considered among the favorites to win states. But it was Abidin who defeated Gomez twice in 11 days- first in the Suffolk semifinals and then at the state finals- to complete a somewhat improbable run to the winner's circle. In hindsight, maybe Abidin should have never been overlooked. His only loss was a 4-3 decision to Gomez in January. Abidin turned the tables and took home the hardware.
Chanse Menendez, Hauppauge
When Menendez lost three matches during a January tournament against top competition, some might have seen it as sign that the 171-pound senior was a smidge below the elite. But Menendez rebounded, winning the Suffolk County tournament in one of its tougher weight-classes. Upstate, he avenged one of those January tourney defeats in the semifinals before winning a convincing 9-3 decision over Queensbury's Matt Lashway in the finals. In doing so Menendez, proved that early season hiccup was a mere speed bump.
Warren Bosch, Kings Park
Bosch won Long Island's last state title during the meet's penultimate match, and he did so in quicker fashion than his five predecessors. At 1:51, the senior pinned Niagara Wheatfield's Adam Donner in the state finals' shortest match. In doing so, he completed an evening in which 1/3 of the Division I state champions hailed from Suffolk.