The connection between football and wrestling cannot be understated.
Wrestling programs that successfully recruit the bigger football players to fill the lineup are usually successful.
Sachem East is one of those programs. The Flaming Arrows dominated the upper weight classes Thursday night, winning four of the final five bouts by pin in a 52-30 victory over host Central Islip to claim a share of the Suffolk League I dual meet title.
Junior Ryan Paolella pinned Brian Zelaya in 3:00 at 170 pounds to extend a four-point lead to 34-24 and proved to be the winning bout.
“We have a very balanced lineup and the addition of all the football players makes us a much closer team,” said Paolella, a linebacker, who led the Flaming Arrows in tackles. “We’re already strong coming into the season after football and it has an immediate impact.”
Other footballers were big contributors. Junior Luis Valdez turned a third period deficit into a pin over Xavier Wilcher just before time expired at 195 pounds. Valdez used a late reversal and put Wilcher to his back to gain the pin. Senior Angel Pineda flattened Bryant Aparicio in 22 seconds at 220 and Mark Kmiotek pinned Jorge Rodriguez in 1:55 at 285.
“The real hammer is at 99 pounds with Jared Weinhaus,” said senior Sam Matlat, who earned a win by technical fall at 126 pounds. “He gets us going with the opening win and then it’s all about teamwork and everyone doing their job.”
Weinhaus, a freshman, earned a 48-second pin at 99 pounds to jumpstart the Flaming Arrows.
Sachem East improved to 5-1 in league action and 8-1 overall. The Flaming Arrows last won the league dual meet title in 2016. Central Islip, the League II tri-champion, moved up into League I this season and finished 4-2 in league and 8-4 overall.
“I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished and we’re in second place,” Central Islip coach Brad Brzozinski said. “We’re one or two guys short in the lineup. And Sachem East was very good tonight.”
Sachem East has not lost a bout on the mat this season but was forced to share the League I title after it forfeited its 38-27 win over Patchogue-Medford on Dec. 21. The Flaming Arrows self-reported the use of a wrestler not certified to his weight class against Patchogue-Medford to forfeit the dual meet.
“It was an honest mistake and we were upset about it but what could we do,” Kmiotek said. “It motivated us to come out and make sure we got a piece of the title anyway.”
Patchogue-Medford beat Ward Melville, 55-21, on Wednesday, to finish with a 5-1 league record and 18-2 overall. The win gave the Raiders a share of the League I dual meet title, the first in school history.