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Steven Schneider, Justin Cooksey help MacArthur clinch Conference II-A

MacArthur's Steven Schneider wrestles against Mepham's Chris Juchem.

MacArthur's Steven Schneider wrestles against Mepham's Chris Juchem. (Jan. 24, 2014) Credit: Steven Ryan

It didn't take long for the assembled crowd to see some of the best wrestlers in the state when MacArthur hosted Mepham in a Nassau Conference II-A dual meet that would crown a league champ.

Behind 2013 state runner-up Steven Schneider and 2012 state runner-up Justin Cooksey, the Generals took control early on their way to a 56-17 victory in a battle of unbeaten teams.

The early results weren't surprising as Cooksey took care of business in the opening bout at 145 pounds with a pin in 56 seconds against Avneek Bains.

Mepham's Louis Hernandez, a defending state champion, did his job when he picked up a technical fall in 4:30 over Sal Randazzo in his match at 160 pounds.

Schneider pinned Chris Juchem in 1:47 to put MacArthur (5-0) back in front 12-8, and helped the Generals get on a roll.

"It all starts at the weight draw," Schneider said. "We started at 145 and Justin set the tone. We know Louis is a great wrestler and we knew we would have trouble at his weight. It all comes down to how you draw and the matchups and it just happened to go our way tonight."

Travis Cooksey clinched the match for MacArthur with a pin in 3:04 over Tyler Althenn at 113.

With the Nassau Dual meet championships a week away, it was an important match for seeding and momentum heading into the postseason.

"There's some playing matchups because you never really know how a match will go," coach Rob Paletta said. "They're a very good team and if a couple of things go their way, the match could go a different way. We're preparing for the dual meet championships and every team in this county is close and we have to make sure we keep an eye on those matchups."

For Hernandez, there was a bit of redemption after losing a match to MacArthur's Mike Marrero a little more than a year ago on the same mat. It was Hernandez's only loss of the season as he completed a dominant run to a state title at 145 pounds.

"There was definitely extra motivation today," Hernandez said. "I just wanted to go out there and wrestle tough for myself and my team in front of MacArthur to show -- no spite -- but to show that last year was a good win for their kid but I've been training and those losses stay in my head."

As two of the top teams in a race that has been as wide open as ever, both teams know that each second can be the difference. "The league is nice but even individually, we've had losses throughout the season," Schneider said. "With the dual meet championship around the corner, and it's not how you start but how you finish and we're going to be at the top."

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