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Massapequa teammates inspire Jesse Bran-Umana to victory

Jesse Bran-Umana of Massapequa, top, gets an advantage

Jesse Bran-Umana of Massapequa, top, gets an advantage on Bailey O'Brien of Locust Valley at 160 pounds during a non-league varsity wrestling meet at Massapequa High School on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015. Bran-Umana won by decision 3-1. Credit: James Escher

How bad do you want it?

Toward the end of Massapequa wrestler Jesse Bran- Umana’s bout with Bailey O’Brien (Locust Valley) at 160, these are the words that boomed from the Chiefs’ side of the mat and echoed through their home gym.

Trailing by a point late in the third period of his match in Massapequa’s 34-22 victory Wednesday, Bran-Umana escaped for the tying point to send it to overtime.

His teammate, Paul Brachfeld, yelled the words again: “How bad do you want it?”

Pretty bad, apparently.

Composed despite facing a bigger opponent, Bran-Umana used a takedown in overtime to give him a 3-1 win.

“When you hear that from your teammates, that’s the motivation,” Bran-Umana said. “It’s like, ‘All right. I need to pull this out for them.”

It was a visible mismatch for the senior, who generally wrestles at 145 but was bumped up to 160 Wednesday. “The guy was bigger than him, stronger than him,” Brachfeld said. “But he fought through that. I’m very proud of him.”

For Bran-Umana, it’s been an underdog story from the time he joined the team as a freshman. Coach Ron Serrano saw him playing basketball in gym class that year and immediately recognized Bran-Umana’s skill set. His footwork and athleticism would no doubt translate well to the wrestling mat.

“Hard work truly does pay off,” said Bran-Umana, who placed fifth at the Nassau Division I tournament last season. “I came in as a ninth-grader, not knowing one move. Now I’m a senior, going for it all. Just trying to finish off on top.”

Brachfeld (195), who pinned Christian Cassazza in 1:28, is also a senior, and has steadily improved in his results as he’s gotten older, including a third-place finish in Nassau last year. “But where I’m most proud of him is his maturity,” Serrano said. “He’s incredibly focused and composed. I think that’s what’s going to get him over the hump to get him the Nassau County title.”

Locust Valley’s big guns got the job done Wednesday — Hunter Dusold won by major decision and Spencer Matthaei won by decision. But it wasn’t enough to overcome a Massapequa squad that boasts seven all-county returnees, Serrano said. At 120, John Kalinoglu defeated Jon Romano, 10-2, for a major decision. Shane Gibbons pinned Jack DeNatale in 5:24.

“We’re very deep this year,” Brachfeld said. “And we’re coming off that third place as a team in Nassau last year. So you can say we want it really bad this year.”

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