ALBANY — Locust Valley’s Jon Gomez was doing literal and figurative backflips Saturday with a wrestling state title on the line.
His pregame routine — one that admittedly scares coach Joe Enea because of the risk of rolling an ankle, among other things — gets Gomez in the zone. He runs from one end of the mat to the other, finishing with a single high arching back-flip and landing with ease.
“Just one, just to get me going,” Gomez, a senior, said. “It gets the legs going and gets me fired up.”
Gomez, who will wrestle at Princeton next year, rode the emotional high to a 5-1 decision over Mattituck’s Jack Bokina at 126 pounds in the state Division II championship match at the Times Union Center in Albany.
After finishing as a state runner-up as a freshman and earning a state crown as a sophomore, Gomez was disappointed with a third-place finish last season. His goal this winter was to put that outcome behind him and get back to the top of the podium.
“He did what all wrestlers do,” Enea said. “When you’re not happy, the next day starts the training. He worked for a full year to make this a reality, and he did it.”
Gomez’s tenacity allowed him to build a 5-0 lead before Bokina earned a point for an escape in the third, and the pace of the match played to Gomez’s strengths.
Said Gomez: “That’s when I win, when I’m moving and pushing the pace.”
Hoeg, Zagarino make Mattituck history. At 195 pounds, James Hoeg became the first Mattituck/Greenport/Southold wrestler to capture a state title. Not to be outdone, Tanner Zagarino followed his friend with a championship performance of his own at 220.
Second-seeded Hoeg earned a 10-2 major decision over top-seeded Joe Benedict of South Jefferson-Sandy Creek, and top-seeded Zagarino won a 10-5 decision over Midlake’s Hammond Raes.
“I guess he is the first one to win a state championship, but I guess we can say we’re co-first ones,” Zagarino said. “It’s not my fault they put James in front of me.”
Both praised coach Cory Dolson for his dedication to training them to make school history, saying that without him, they wouldn’t sit atop their respective podiums.
Hoeg was proud to represent Mattituck in the history books.
“It’s a small school, so it’s definitely better to get our name out there in the sport of wrestling,” he said. “It definitely means a lot to get where we are.”