When Syosset's Vito Arujau has a tough match coming up, the eighth-grader has the option of calling his brother Nick, a current Cornell wrestler and three-time New York state champion, for advice. If Nick's not around, then Vito can just talk to his dad, Vugar, a two-time freestyle wrestling world champion and a bronze medalist at the 1992 Olympic Games.
But thanks to all the knowledge and training from his dad and brother, Vito hasn't had that many tough matches lately.
Arujau, 41-0 this season, secured two pins at 99 pounds Sunday at Hofstra to make the semifinals of the Nassau Division I wrestling championship, which ends Tuesday.
"They always said that Vito was better than Nick when they were little," Syosset coach Mike Murtha said. "He's a technician. They have two different styles. Nick was very aggressive and willed his way upon people. Vito is a very precise, technical kid and an extremely hard worker, and I think that's a reflection on his father."
Nick finished fourth in Nassau County in his eighth-grade season, and with two more wins, Vito would be able to say he got the better of his brother. But beating Nick's achievements isn't Arujau's main goal. "I want to one-up my father's accomplishments," he said.
Joining Arujau in the semifinals is teammate Dan Choi, who won both of his matches at 195 in a combined 3:28. Syosset finished the first day in fourth place with 58 points.
Ahead of Syosset were the usual suspects: Wantagh finished first with 112.5 points, MacArthur second with 89 and Island Trees third with 70.5.
Island Trees' success was heavily weighted on its heavier wrestlers. Brandon Cassar reached the 182-pound semifinals with a pin in 4:27 over Plainview JFK's Dylan Schmidt, and second-seeded Tom Sinclair reached the semis at 220 with a 59-second pin of Wantagh's James Murphy. Kevin Strauss of Island Trees dropped a 3-1 decision to Ryan Gilganic of Seaford in the quarterfinals at 195. Vinny Manna (285 pounds) and Lucas Panebianco (152) also join their teammates in the semifinals.
"We have a lot of big kids who are football players," Cassar said. "We work together during football season on our stances and we just battle it out in practice. We practice under hooks and throwing each other, and you get used to it. Kids can't defend it because we're stronger."
Said coach Lou Tuorto: "Hard practicing every day, we do the same thing and try to give them intense practices . . . We have a good thing going."
At 145 pounds, Louis Hernandez of Mepham and Matt Schmelzinger of Garden City look to be on a collision course for a championship rematch. They squared off for the county title last year, with Hernandez earning a pin in 1:25.
"I definitely think the match would be harder than last year," Hernandez said. "This year, he should be a little more defensive and try to not get taken down. He kind of knows what I do, so I just have to stick to the plan and I should be fine."