As the final seconds came off the clock, Sachem North's Matt Marino looked for that one last shot to decide the Suffolk League II title bout at 138 pounds.
The junior trailed Connetquot's Greg Cherry by a point and with three seconds left found an opening. As the two exchanged counters on their feet, Marino pulled on Cherry's head and ducked under his shoulder for the deciding takedown just before time expired for a thrilling 4-3 win and the crown.
Marino's victory proved pivotal as Sachem North erased a six-point deficit heading into the championship round and came back to beat Connetquot, 273-260, for the team title Saturday night in Lake Ronkonkoma. Sachem North swept all four bouts pitting the Flaming Arrows against wrestlers from Connetquot, which had four of the previous five league titles.
With the crowd abuzz and staring at a heartbreaking defeat, Marino pulled out an unlikely win and saluted the crowd after the victory.
"I felt his hips drop and I circled him and knew I could get in under him and get the takedown," Marino said. "The match didn't really go my way -- he controlled it most of the way and set the tone."
It was the second time in as many weeks that Marino edged Cherry, beating the T-Bird grappler, 5-3, in an earlier dual to lead Sachem North to the League title.
It was an emotionally charged atmosphere throughout the tournament. Sachem North and Connetquot marched nine wrestlers each into the final round. The Flaming Arrows crowned seven champions and the T-Birds three.
"Our goal was to win the regular-season dual-meet title and then the tournament title," said Steven Mills, who won the 220-pound crown. "Our guys wrestled really well in the big bouts."
One of those came at 132 pounds, with Sean O'Hagan beating Gino Titone, 9-6, in a bout filled with exciting flurries and perpetual action.
O'Hagan avoided a late takedown and near-fall points by Titone as time expired. As the officials gathered to discuss the final flurry in the waning seconds, an enraged spectator ran onto the mat. Sachem security did an excellent job of restoring order and two spectators were ejected from the gymnasium.
"It was a physical tournament filled with exciting wrestling," Sachem North coach Ray Pickersgill said. "We did an excellent job in the finals. Our guys rose to the challenge and I'm extremely proud of them."
After wins by Matt Stallone (99), Anthony Nunziata (126), O'Hagan, Marino and Mike Falcon (152), it was left to the big guns at the top of the Flaming Arrows' lineup. Giovanni Santiago turned in Sachem North's only pin of the finals at 182 pounds. Santiago body locked Connetquot's rugged junior Chris Beal for the pin in 1:17.
"He's just so strong and so physical," Pickersgill said. "This is his season."
It was also quite a season for junior Matt Giannelli of Lindenhurst, who edged Mike Morris of Half Hollow Hills East, 7-6, for the 195-pound crown. Giannelli was the lone champ for the Bulldogs.