For high school wrestlers, there is only one thing better than competing for a state title — winning one.
“Nothing’s ever got me more pumped,” Hauppauge junior Jake Silverstein said. “Everyone wants to be there and to win.”
Now, Silverstein is aiming to take that next step.
As a freshman, he advanced to the 106-pound final before dropping a tightly contested match in an ultimate tiebreaker to Long Beach’s Jacori Teemer. The final moments of the match have been with Silverstein ever since.
“It’s still in my head but I definitely have worked harder and I think I’m better,” Silverstein said. “That match is a big motivation because I know I could have won it. I’m ready to go again.”
Getting back is never a given. Last year, as the top seed at 120 pounds, Silverstein suffered a fractured finger in the county semifinals. He wrestled in the final but was unsuccessful. He secured a wild-card berth to the state tournament but fell in the second round.
“I’ve trained all summer for this and it’s definitely my goal to be back there,” Silverstein said.
Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK senior Peter Pappas was in a similar situation. He reached the state final as both a freshman (106) and a sophomore (120) before a torn labrum in the county semifinals last year derailed his third run.
“It’s my last year so I’m determined to win a state title,” Pappas said. “I’ve never wanted something so bad in my life. I’ve had the state title in my grasp and fell short twice, This year I’ll do whatever I need to in order to be a state champ.”
Pappas enjoys the atmosphere of the state tournament.
“Knowing that all eyes are on you and you have a chance to represent your school and county and become a state champion is really something special,” he said.
Dylan Ryder is another Long Island wrestler who knows what it’s like to have a match on the state’s biggest stage. The Half Hollow Hills West junior burst onto the scene last year and made it to the state final at 99 pounds before coming up just short.
“Taking second last year motivates me to push harder every day,” Ryder said. “Right after the match I was ready to go again. I wanted the season to come back as fast as it could and to get back on the mat.”
Shawn Mosca will be looking to make more school history. He’s already the first Wheatley wrestler to advance to a state final after taking second at 160 last season and is hoping to take it one step further in February.
Before even thinking about a state championship, there’s the regular season.
Long Beach returns 14 county place winners, headlined by reigning 126-pound state champion Jacori Teemer and county champions Tyrese Byron (152) and Tyreek Bromley (182). Look out for Jeffrey Alvarez and Mark Rivera as county title contenders at the upper weights. They’ll make Long Beach an even scarier dual-meet matchup.
A deep and experienced lineup gives Wantagh the best shot of any team in Nassau to take down the Marines. Justin Vines, the 113-pound county champion, leads a squad that returns three county semifinalists under 126 pounds and seven overall county placers.
Brothers Shane (145) and Garrett Gibbons (152) will lead a Massapequa team that could challenge for a dual-meet title with talent throughout the lineup.
Suffolk should come down to a battle between League V foes Hauppauge and Rocky Point. Hauppauge has three wrestlers besides Silverstein who are county title threats: Danny Mauriello (126), Ben Tepperman (132) and John Munro (285).
Rocky Point is hoping Anthony Cirillo, who has third- and fourth-place state finishes at 113 pounds, will make the leap to state champion at 126. Anthony Sciotto (113) and Dylan Zabbara (160) are contenders for county crowns.