From February to June last year, Peter Pappas could not do much other than rehab and eat.
The Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK senior had a torn rotator cuff that forced him to withdraw from the 2016 state tournament, keeping him short of the goal that has always eluded him: a state championship.
“I want to win states so bad,” said Pappas, a state runner-up as a freshman and sophomore. “I knew one of the steps to winning a state title was winning counties.”
With the time to gain strength and weight, Pappas moved up to the 152-pound class from 132. He defeated Long Beach’s Tyrese Byron, 7-2, Sunday night at Hofstra in the finals of the 60th annual Nassau Division I Wrestling Championship.
Wantagh won the team title for the sixth time in seven years with 343.5, and Long Beach placed second with 328 points.
“It’s day and night from last year, just in terms of [Pappas’] takedowns,” Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK coach Mike Doria said. “He was able to take [Byron] down two times. Prior to that it was always relying on top and bottom moves, but he really just got dominant on his feet since he bumped up in weight.”
Pappas, who also won a county title as a freshman, needed two overtimes to defeat Byron when Long Beach visited Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK for a regular-season dual meet.
Doria said he thinks Pappas could finally get his state title.
“I don’t want to jinx it, but this should be the year,” Doria said. “It all fell in place. He’s really the favorite. As long as he keeps doing what he’s doing, he should be the favorite to win the state tournament.”
Sewanhaka’s Brandon VanCooten earned a notable upset at 182 pounds, pinning 2016 county champion Tyreek Bromley of Long Beach in 3:57.
“It felt amazing,” VanCooten said. “I didn’t have any doubt in myself because last time I faced him, I only lost by one point. I came out here with all my stuff, knew what I had to do, and I did it.”
As expected, Syosset’s Vito Arujau became the first to win five Section VIII wrestling titles with a 20-10 win over South Side/East Rockaway’s Kyle Mosher. Long Beach junior Jacori Teemer defeated Lynbrook’s Matt Swanson, 12-4, for his fourth straight county title.
“It felt amazing to put my name in the history books,” Arujau said.