The Wantagh Warriors will forever hold the distinction of being one of the state’s first dual-meet wrestling champions.
The Warriors won the inaugural crown with a 37-28 victory over Minisink Valley to finish the season 31-0, setting the record for most single-season dual meet wins in Long Island history, according to Newsday records. They also had the highest team score at the state individual tournament.
Benny Rogers (99), Josiah Encarnacion (106), Aidan Araoz (113), Charles Maier (120), Justin Vines (132), Matt Rogers (170), James Langan (195) and Jonathan Loew (220) each went 4-0 in the tournament to seal Wantagh’s historic season.
“We wrestled them last year in the finals and thought they were a tough team,” said Loew, a Cornell-bound senior. “They were returning most of their guys but so were we, so we knew we were going to match up well against them.”
Normally wrestling in the 195 weight class, Loew wrestled at 220 in the state final. He pinned his opponent in 21 seconds.
“[Coach Paul] Gillespie tinkers with the matchups like a chess player. If he likes a matchup and puts you up a weight class, you go,” Loew said. “Our seniors were committed to winning so we did whatever it took. That’s what Wantagh is all about.”
Loew and fellow All-Long Islander Justin Vines are graduating but underclassmen Aidan Araoz, Josiah Encarnacion and Matt Rogers give the Warriors a strong nucleus for next year.
“Despite losing our seniors, expectations are still high for next year,” said Gillespie. “These kids are focused on winning championships.”
Gillespie said the entire team worked together before the season even began.
“We practice in the offseason and compete in several tournaments,” said Gillespie. “We had about 12 guys that were committed — not just involved — but committed.”
The opportunity to be part of a championship winning team is what many of the wrestlers have been building toward for half their lives.
“Every boy, except maybe one or two, has been in the community wrestling program since third or fourth grade,” said Gillespie. “By the time they are in ninth grade, they’re real players.”
Or as Loew, a member of the program since first grade, said: “We’re battle-tested.”
Warriors’ Road to the Championship
Long Beach, 64-18
Fox Lane, 61-9
Minisink Valley, 37-28