Wantagh’s Thomas Rohan was on his back, vulnerable as the clock wound down.
He had led for most of his 145-pound Nassau Division I quarterfinal bout against Great Neck South’s Nick Belitsis but had fallen into a one-point deficit late in the third round.
Rohan thought he had more time — 30 seconds, maybe. In reality, the clock was at 15 seconds when he noticed Belitsis had granted him a golden opportunity and eight seconds when he completed the reversal that gave him a 9-5 win at Hofstra’s Mack Sports Complex on Saturday.
“I got stuck on bottom and I couldn’t really get out,” said the junior, who will make his first county semifinals appearance Sunday at 7:30 p.m. at Hofstra. “Once I saw him putting a lot of pressure on the bar, I rolled through with it and got him on his back.”
Wantagh assistant Todd Bloom said this was not the first time he had seen Rohan win a bout late.
“You can never count him out of a match because he’s extremely competitive,” Bloom said. “He will wrestle you hard the entire time. Anybody else, when they went to their back the way he did, might have given up but Tommy has an extra gear that he got himself into.”
Rohan was one of nine Wantagh wrestlers to advance to the semifinals. Rohan’s finish was among the most exciting on Day 1 of the 60th annual Section VIII Wrestling Championship, but teammate Bobby Moore stole the show early.
Moore, an unseeded 99-pounder, threw No. 2 seed Pablo Martinez of Long Beach to the mat for a pin at the 5:42 mark.
“When you throw the way that he does, it’s the equivalent of a knockout punch for a boxer,” Bloom said. “You can throw a guy to his back and be down 14 points and come back and win a match. I’m not surprised that he was able to come through there. He’s been getting it done for us all season long.”
Long Beach’s Brandon DeVivio was another unseeded wrestler to earn a quarterfinal upset. He defeated third-seeded Joseph Conklin of Wantagh, 8-3, at 170 pounds.
“I wrestled him earlier in the season, so I had a feel for how he wrestled already,” said DeVivio, who defeated Conklin, 13-2, in a tournament at Mount St. Vincent. “I just took advantage of knowing his main moves and wrestled smart.”
DeVivio knows he needs to focus on his semifinal bout against Valley Stream Central’s Joel Rosario, but he is eyeing a shot at Long Beach teammate Joe Giorlando in the championship. DeVivio said they have split a pair of bouts this season.
“It gives me crazy amounts of motivation,” DeVivio said. “I wish my teammate the best of luck in the finals if I see him there.”
The premier favorites were able to avoid upsets, as three-time state champions Jacori Teemer (132) and Vito Arujau (138) each won by pin. Arujau, from Syosset, needed 1:32 to defeat MacArthur’s Christian Dougherty. Teemer, from Long Beach, pinned North Shore’s Joe Barcellos in 3:08.