ALBANY — Lajess Sawyer does whatever he can to block out distractions.
The unseeded Center Moriches junior knocked off two seeded opponents Friday in the 170-pound bracket at the state Division II wrestling tournament at the Times Union Center, including a spirited 8-5 quarterfinal win over No. 2 Robbie Penhollow of Falconer.
“My coaches just tell me not to look at the brackets or worry about any of that,” Sawyer said. “I just wrestle like it’s a regular tournament and like I do in the room.”
Sawyer got a late third-period takedown to take a 6-4 lead and held on for the win.
“It’s definitely a confidence boost,” Sawyer said, before admitting, “I actually didn’t even know he was the second seed. I really don’t ever look at the brackets.”
Clarke’s Jordan Soriano had the same philosophy on his way to knocking off No. 4 Micah Roes of Lowville 5-3 in the first round and No. 5 Carter Baer 3-1 in the quarterfinals from his unseeded position at 106.
“He adapts to what’s going on,” Clarke coach Mike Leonard said. “Usually he’s able to get more turns but in [the quarterfinal] he couldn’t so he just kept working and grinding and he wore the kid out.”
Soriano will face top seed Jordan Titus from Center Moriches in a semifinal at 10 a.m. Saturday.
Titus made it to the state final last year at 99 pounds before losing in sudden victory.
“I want to get back to the finals really bad because last year hurt a lot with my entire season ending on one match,” Titus said. “This year nothing is stopping me and I’m going all the way.”
If Titus gets past Soriano he has a potential championship rematch with the opponent who beat him last season, Anthony Noto of Honeoye-Falls Lima.
“I beat him in Eastern States in double overtime but I need to beat him one more time,” Titus said.
Luke Bokina of Mattituck also knows how it feels to come up one match short. The senior made it to the state final last year and will see a familiar face in his 132-pound semifinal.
Bokina will face top seeded Cahal Donovan of Marcellus, who Bokina said beat him 13-3 earlier this year at Eastern States.
“I feel like I didn’t really wrestle well at Eastern States this year,” Bokina said. “I definitely need to switch up a lot of things. In this match I’m going to try and use a different style.”
Luke’s twin brother Jack, who lost in a state final last year, also advanced to the semifinals at 145.
“It would mean the world to win a state title the same night as my brother,” Jack, the second seed, said. “That’s been our number one goal since we’ve been wrestling. It would be awesome.”
Fifth-seeded Mike Zarif of Mount Sinai capped off two wins with a pin of No. 4 Jack Wrobel of Pawling in 3:59 to secure his spot in the semifinals at 138.
Port Jefferson’s Vin Miceli, the third seed at 126, held serve and secured a hard fought 3-1 win over No. 6 Mike Squires of Norwich to advance to the semifinals.
It took everything No. 5 Keith Cassar had at 120 to advance. The Oyster Bay senior grinded out a 1-0 quarterfinal win over No. 4 Dean Shambo of Mexico.
“It was pretty tough to hang on,” Cassar said. “I knew I could ride him on top. He created a lot of motion but I was still able to tie up his wrist and ultimately get the win.”