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Wild-card rule takes down Massapequa wrestling

Massapequa's Anthony Conetta wrestles Freeport's Terry Ellis in

Massapequa's Anthony Conetta wrestles Freeport's Terry Ellis in the 126 pound weight class Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Massapequa coach Ron Serrano was inside the Chiefs' wrestling room and his guys were at work. It was Friday afternoon when Serrano and his defending state dual meet champions should have been on a bus headed north to the state tournament in Syracuse.

Instead, the Chiefs were locked into an all-out workout in preparation for Nassau’s individual qualifying tournaments next week. And that seemed kind of odd that the Chiefs weren’t leaving town to defend the state crown.

Not even the dual meet loss to MacArthur in the Nassau Division I sectional should have denied Massapequa the opportunity to compete upstate. They should have been able to grab one of the three wild-card spots in the tournament to fill out the 12-team bracket.

“We didn’t win the sectional and you can’t rely on a wild-card bid,” Serrano said. “MacArthur wrestled a great dual meet and earned the right to represent the county. But I did think we had a real good shot at a wild card and it didn’t materialize. So now we focus on the next task – the qualifying tournament.”

Serrano has too much class to whine about the Chiefs being passed over for one of the three wild-card spots at the state tournament. Serrano said he’d prefer to focus on the positive and not waste energy of the negative. But he has every right to question the system and the selection of the three wild card teams in Chenango Forks, Lancaster and Commack.

Neither of the three wild cards advanced into the semifinal round Saturday in the SRC Arena in Syracuse.

“We would have liked the opportunity,” Serrano said.

According to Nassau wrestling coordinator John Mankowich, the director of athletics for Jericho Schools, Massapequa finished third in the wild-card seeding with 38 points and looked like it had its ticket punched to the state duals. Lancaster had 42 points and Chenango Forks totaled 40 locking up the first two wild cards.

But upon further review, the selection committee chose to go with Commack, which only had 29 points, but had beaten Massapequa in an early-season dual meet.

“Commack was awarded the wild card for the head-to-head win over Massapequa, which carries more weight for the selection committee,” Mankowich said. “That win jumped Commack over Massapequa for the third spot.”

When Commack vaulted over Massapequa for the final wild card, Commack coach Mike Guercio was not surprised.

“That’s why you wrestle the tougher schedule to get quality wins like ours over Massapequa,” Guercio said. “That win obviously catapulted us into the state tournament. But I’m not a fan of a points system to determine who gets a bid. I’m old-school and would rather have all the placements settled on the mat for the three wild cards.”

Mankowich went on to explain the complex criteria for wild-card selection.

“It’s all based on points awarded for returning place winners in the sectional and state tournaments and for wrestlers with 20 wins,” he said. “And the state wrestling committee utilizes that formula to award wild cards.  And we’re in the third year of the event and we’ve tweaked the system for wild cards every year. We’re trying to make it work. There’s no perfect scenario and I can guarantee you there’s no Long Island bias.”

Wantagh won the inaugural state dual meet championship in 2018 and Massapequa captured the title last year.  

Massapequa would have liked a shot to repeat.

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