At the beginning of the season, it was one of the first words spoken by Locust Valley coach Joe Enea to his wrestlers: States.
So when 132-pound senior Andrew Cantatore arrived at each practice, when he mentally readied himself before each competition, he already was envisioning how all of his hard work eventually would pay off.
“States has been the goal since Day One,” Cantatore said. “We’d talk about it all the time. On and off the mat, this is what we work for.”
After losing in the Nassau final in each of the past two seasons, Cantatore won his first county crown — a 15-6 major decision over Oyster Bay’s Jack Wieboldt on Feb. 13 — and will compete in the state Division II tournament at the Times Union Center in Albany on Friday.
Six of Cantatore’s Locust Valley teammates also will take the mat at the state meet.
“There’s a fantastic vibe about our practice room,” Cantatore said, “where in the beginning of the season, you go in working very hard, and then by the end of it you’re working even harder.”
At practice, Cantatore looks to his right and sees reigning state champion Jon Gomez (120). To his left is Hunter Dusold (126), a state winner in 2014. On the other side of the mat are Spencer Matthaei (285) and Bryce Dusold (182), both of whom have won multiple county titles. And beside him are Bailey O’Brien (152) and John Pedranghelu (170), who, like Cantatore, will compete in Albany for the first time.
“I think the fact that you have six, seven, eight guys in the county finals or qualifying for states, it helps to motivate guys a little bit more,” Enea said. “The guys that have been there, they talk about it with the guys who haven’t made it up. And that lights the fire.”
There is a similar vibe in the Mattituck practice room, where coach Cory Dolson said, “We’ve been talking about the state tournament since the first day of the year.
“I think the more we talk about it, the more it becomes real and the more kids realize during the year that it might be something tangible.”
Jack Bokina (113) and James Hoeg (170), each of whom have won three county titles, are two of seven Mattituck wrestlers who will venture upstate.
“It’s a really great atmosphere at Mattituck for everyone to work hard,” Hoeg said.
Added Bokina, who placed fourth in the state last year: “From the beginning of the season, this is what we’ve been working toward. This is why we push each other.”