It was minutes before his match Saturday afternoon and Nick Casella was alone with his headphones on, pacing and talking to himself while listening to Eminem's "Lose Yourself" on the far side of the Carle Place gym.
"I do that all the time. I really have to," the Locust Valley junior stalwart wrestler said. "I think and I always think at that time what I'm going to do and I really get into my music and get pumped up a lot."
Casella was ready to take the next step toward his ultimate goal of a state championship this season. And he wasted little time doing so. He pinned teammate Andrew Cantatore in 54 seconds with a beautiful cradle move to claim the 120-pound title at the Nassau Division II Championship.
"I rather just get it over with quick," Casella said. "In the first match of the day, I was pumped and I was ready to go and by the final, I just wanted it even more."
No Long Island Division II wrestler has won a state championship since each county was split into two enrollment-based divisions in 2003. Casella has finished second in each of the last two seasons.
"I want it bad," Casella said. "I just got to go out, wrestle and not think about it. That's when I'm at my best."
Locust Valley dominated the event with eight individual champions and finished first with 300.5 points. Cold Spring Harbor was second (139), Clarke third (133) and Mineola fourth (127.5).
Locust Valley junior Sam Ward was nearly as impressive as Casella. Ward pinned Clarke's Tyler Constantine in 1:10 to win at 138 pounds. Like Casella, Ward is focused on becoming a state champion this year. He finished fifth last year.
"I was disappointed last year and it's great to put myself in a position to get back there," Ward said. "And from a Locust Valley perspective, as a team, it just feels really good to have so many quality guys."
The Falcons weren't the only ones who impressed, though. Wheatley's Erick Rodriguez won convincingly, 8-3, against Mineola's James Rodriguez at 152 pounds. John DeRidder from Carle Place, used his quickness and agility to defeat Locust Valley's Jack Ward (Sam's younger brother), 8-4, at 106 pounds.
"John's just been wrestling great," Carle Place coach Tim Moran said. "I wouldn't say I was surprised he won at all, but this was a really good match for him to win."