It was supposed to be Nigel McNeil's party, but a kid in red argyle dress socks, wrestling in his first varsity dual meet, ended up crashing it.
Mack Morris isn't a typical wrestler - the Kings Park junior acknowledged he only got into the sport as a way to lose weight (the junior has lost between 40-45 pounds since the eighth grade) - but his 9-4 win at 135 pounds was the key to host Kings Park's 30-27 victory over Huntington Wednesday in the League V opener.
"It was my first time out there, so I didn't want the team to lose because of me," said Morris, who added that he wore the red dress socks to school and didn't have a pair of athletic socks to put on for the match. "I just tried to get on top of the guy and tear his head off."
The match featured three All-State wrestlers - defending state champion Mike Soria of Kings Park at 103, his brother and third-place finisher Max at 112 and runner-up Damon McQueen of Huntington at 119. Mike Soria and McQueen scored easy wins.
McNeil, who placed third in the county, faced Max Soria, who made news at last year's state tournament by forfeiting to his brother in the semifinal round and ended up placing third, in last night's 112-pound bout.
But all one needed to know about McNeil's chances was written in large stencil print on the back of his shirt: "FIT TO BEAT THE BEST." With pectoral muscles protruding his singlet and arms that dwarfed his opponents', it was hard to doubt him.
Soria nearly had a takedown on a throw by in the first period, but the referee ruled the pair out of bounds. It was all McNeil from there.
He took a 6-1 lead on a third-period takedown before Soria escaped to make it 6-2. With the match nearing its conclusion, Soria tried a desperation throw, which McNeil countered with a five-point move to cap an 11-2 major decision.
"I knew I'd be bigger and stronger, so I just told myself to stay low," said McNeil, who gave Huntington a 16-9 lead. "When he tried to throw me, I knew it was a big mistake."
Morris' victory over Tye Jamison brought Kings Park within six at 21-15 and was the third of five straight wins (including a forfeit at 130) for the Kingsmen to close the match. Justin Pardo's third-period pin at 145 pounds sealed the victory.
Said Kings Park coach Clark Crespi: "When two quality teams are battling it generally comes down to your unsung heroes. Mack is the perfect example of that."