Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder walked to the center of the Massapequa gym and started to speak. The Freeport and Massapequa wrestlers surrounded him in a large circle as the crowd listened to his impassioned speech on how Wrestling Takes Down Drugs.
Ryder’s rousing speech sent a strong message about the department’s initiative to Take Down Drugs Wednesday night before the regular season dual meet championship between Freeport and Massapequa.
Ryder nailed it. The former Lynbrook wrestler in his anti-drug message empowered the high school athletes to educate the younger kids in the community and lead by example.
“We’re educating kids and building a foundation for our future,” Ryder said. “Our initiatives start in the schools. We can’t continue to just lock people up and think the drug problem will go away. We need to get the message out and educate the young people. And it starts in places like Massapequa that is such a large area and has tons of youth programs.”
In Wednesday night’s pregame ceremony, every wrestler on the varsity and junior varsity teams signed a pledge to take down drugs.
And then the night belonged to the Massapequa wrestlers as the state’s defending Division I dual meet champions took down Freeport, 58-12, to capture the Nassau Conference 1A crown. Massapequa improved to 15-4 and 5-0 in conference and Freeport is 7-5 and 4-1.
“We have strength in numbers in the wrestling community,” Massapequa coach Ron Serrano said. “I believe so strongly in this program to take down drugs. And we have 200 kids in our program from the middle school to the high school program. This is a statement by wrestling that we will lead people away from the opioid epidemic. People that go to drugs, use drugs, are running away from their problems, hiding their issues with drug use. In wrestling we confront our fears, we overcome our problems, we build our inner strength to face adversity and come forward with a confident mindset.”
But Wednesday night’s message was so much more than an athletic event for Freeport and Massapequa. They came together to battle for a regular season title. But they also came together to fight in the biggest battle of all — the war on drugs.
“It’s an incredibly strong message when the Police Commissioner himself comes into the gym and addresses the crowd,” Freeport coach Joe Chetti said. “It was a powerful message. It’s the same message we preach every day to our athletes — to stay away from drugs. We want our wrestlers to be leaders and role models and teach the younger wrestlers to lead good, clean lives.”
Massapequa eighth-grader Matt Reehil opened the dual meet with a pin in 2:13 over Justin Rienke at 99 pounds. Chiefs junior Chase Liardi pinned Miguel Payamps in 53 seconds for a 15-3 lead.
Sophomore Anthony Conetta forged a 15-10 third period lead and locked Terry Ellis up for the pin in 4:33 at 126 pounds. Ellis and Conetta battled through the first two periods in an entertaining back and forth bout. Ellis looked like he had the win midway through the second period when he had Conetta on his back.
“We never quit, we just battle,” Serrano said. “Anthony battled off his back and came back to win. He had the confidence to overcome the adversity. That’s a big character check.”