Long Beach senior Mark Raghunandan had put on a wrestling clinic for 5:50, carrying an 8-2 lead over Bellmore JFK's Robert Person with 10 seconds left in the 113-pound Nassau Division I final. Then Person, a defending county champion, slammed Raghunandan to his back to score a two-point takedown and three back points.
But Raghunandan squirmed his way out of danger and held on, 8-7, to win his second county title in three years Sunday night at Hofstra.
As time expired, Long Beach coach Ray Adams' expression said it all -- a mixture of elation and relief prompted by the near-collapse.
"He wrestled a great match, minus the last 10 seconds," Adams said. "He really dominated the match. That's how he has to wrestle at states."
In the final seconds, Raghunandan went from cruise control to dire straits.
"In my mind, I was just saying, 'I need to get to my stomach,' " Raghunandan said. "I knew I wasn't pinned, so I just had to get off my back."
Raghunandan (42-0) advances to the state tournament, which begins Feb. 24 in Albany. He finished second last year after letting a late championship lead slip away. He chalked up the final seconds of the county final to a "mental mistake."
"I don't think it's over yet," Raghunandan said. "I still have a lot of big goals. I'm not finished yet. I still have one major thing to accomplish in wrestling, which is winning states."
Freeport senior Maurice Irby (28-2) is best known for his football exploits, but he can wrestle a little bit, too. Irby beat Massapequa's Justin Paradiso, 6-0, in the 132-pound final. Both of Irby's losses this season were to Paradiso, who won 8-2 and 6-4 decisions within a six-day span last month.
"Every match, I kept getting closer and closer and my coaches told me, 'Eventually he will break,' " Irby said. "This match, I knew in my heart I would get him. Third time's a charm."
Dylan Palacio of Long Beach won his second straight county title and third in four years with a 9-4 decision over MacArthur's Joe Cataldo at 160. The five-point margin of victory was the second-closest of Palacio's perfect season.
"He's a big 160-pounder who can roll with anyone," said Palacio (37-0). "I just wanted it more, and I've been on this stage and had it taken away from me. I know what it feels like, and I never want that feeling again."
MacArthur's Justin Cooksey (40-3) scored a go-ahead reversal with 39 seconds left to take the 106-pound title from Long Beach's Krishna Sewkumar, 4-3.
Plainedge's Dan Spurgeon is 46-0 after winning a 6-5 decision over East Meadow's Evan Pantofel at 170. His teammate, Andrew Jones (40-3), won his second straight county title with a 9-1 major decision over Bellmore JFK's John Luxmore at 182.