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Justin Vines leads top-ranked Wantagh to wrestling victory

Wantagh's Justin Vines wrestles Plainedge's Mike Ciuffo in

Wantagh's Justin Vines wrestles Plainedge's Mike Ciuffo in the 138 pound weight class during a Nassau wrestling match on Tuesday, January 9, 2018. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Justin Vines said there is no secret to Wantagh’s success on the mat. The defending state champion said you have to look no further than the wrestling program’s feeder system and the coaching staff to find the answers to the winning formula.

“We are who we are because we put in the work and we have coaches that put everything into our program,” Vines said., “From top to bottom this program wins. We put in the work in the offseason. And it shows when the season starts.”

Wantagh won five bouts by pin and two by technical fall in a 68-9 win over Plainedge Tuesday night in a Nassau Conference 3B dual meet. The Warriors, the top-ranked Division I team in the state, improved to 22-0.

“Our kids are dedicated and they put in the time,” Wantagh coach Paul Gillespie said. “Most of them get 40 to 50 matches through the summer. They come in here ready to go.”

Vines beat Plainedge’s Mike Ciuffo by technical fall, 18-3, in 3:57 at 138 pounds to move his record to 28-0. The two-time Nassau champion and five-time county place-winner is closing in on 200 career wins and will look to capture the state’s 132-pound title this year in Albany.

“It doesn’t matter who we wrestle, we stay focused,” Vines said. “The hardest part of this year is being a senior and knowing it’s almost over. Coach Gillespie and the rest of the staff have been such a big part of my life and such a great influence.”

Vines isn’t the only Wantagh wrestler with state aspirations. Jonathan Loew, who will attend Cornell in the fall, is also a defending Nassau champion and finished third in the state. He pinned Alex Abrams Tuesday night in 1:19 at 195 pounds. He’ll compete for the state title at 195.

“We have quality kids,” Gillespie said. “They’re leaders and goal oriented. They know how to win.”

Gillespie was especially excited about Joe Moore’s win at 132 pounds. Moore wiped out a 4-0 deficit and pinned Nick Ragione in 3:32 to give the Warriors a 30-0 lead.

“That was the best win of the night,” Gillespie said.

It wasn’t all Wantagh. Billy Portela got Plainedge on the scoreboard when he salvaged a win at 145 pounds. It was a character check of sorts for Portela, who’d given up a 7-2 third-period lead when C.J. Ahern hit a five-point move with nine seconds remaining to tie the score and force overtime.

Portela shook off Ahern’s big move and scored a single leg takedown at 42 seconds of overtime for the 9-7 victory. It was a big win for Portela who’d been out last week with an illness.

“We weren’t happy that he gave up a five-point move late in the match and he knows he needs to be smarter,” Plainedge coach Rob Shaver said. “But we were thrilled that he was resilient enough to shake off the mistake and come back and win.”

Plainedge also had an impressive win at 160. Junior Safe Farid pinned Drew Donaghy in 2:48.

Wantagh’s victory continues its momentum toward the first-ever state dual-meet championship at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse on Jan. 27.

“We’ll take care of this business first, stay healthy and then we’ll go up there and see how things work out,” Gillespie said.

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