Just when everything seemed to be going the way that we thought it would, Brewster came along and turned everything on its head. The Bears upset defending champ Fox Lane in the Section 1 Dual Meet final on Wednesday, proving that the Foxes are beatable and that Brewster is a contender for a section title.
The Bears dramatic 36-31 victory was made possible by a few factors. With the dual meet starting at 132 pounds, there was no way to avoid Fox Lane jumping out to an early lead. Sam Speno, Danny Ventura, Tom Grippi, Giancarlo Morreale and Matt Pasqualini were wrestling in five of the first seven matches, and those are probably the Foxes top five guys. Brewster coach Tom Looby talked about weathering the storm and not giving up pins to those guys, which they did somewhat effectively, only getting pinned twice in those matches.
Looby knew that if they could get to 195 pounds without an overwhelming deficit, they had a chance to make a run against the weaker section of Fox Lane’s lineup. Bruno Albertassi came up with a key pin at 195 to make it 25-12, and then Looby made his smartest move of the day.
Rather than having Mike Liston wrestle Dan Clune at 220, who he might have had a difficult time beating, Looby decided to forfeit to Clune and bump Liston up to 285. Liston is the strongest wrestler that Brewster could use in either spots, but Looby decided that the 285-bout was more winnable. As much as it hurt to give up six points via forfeit, Liston got those points right back with a pin of Andriy Lypchuk. Had Looby stuck with his normal 285-pounder and kept Liston at 220, the Bears could have possibly dropped both matches. Liston’s pin set off the Bears on a streak of six straight wins to close out the championship.
The final step to a title was finishing. Four of the final five matches were bouts that I highlighted as swing matches, and Brewster took them all. Tyler Gonska at 99, Brian Turnyaski at 106, Liam Erickson at 120 and Tommy Gonska at 126 each stepped up with huge wins.
I wish that I could have gotten some of those last few matches on video, but between rushing to meet my deadline and how crowded it was getting around the mat it would have been nearly impossible. I did get a few key matches from throughout the day:
- At 145 pounds, Fox Lane’s Tom Grippi defeated North Rockland’s Mike Caputo, 9-7. There was a bit of a controversial ending here, as Caputo thought he had a takedown in the final seconds, but didn’t get the call. What do you think?
- At 170 pounds, New Rochelle’s Aaron Butler majored Brewster’s Harry Erickson, 10-2.
- At 160 pounds, Fox Lane’s Giancarlo Morreale defeated Brewster’s Kyle McAlpin, 11-4.
Brewster’s win establishes the Bears as the top dual meet team in the section. Look at their lineup top to bottom, and you’d have a hard time finding a weakness. I think you also have to consider them to be in play for a section title at the end of the season, but I would still probably lean towards Fox Lane as the better tournament team. The Foxes have four or five guys with legitimate section title hopes, whereas Brewster really only has one guy who you expect to be there in Mike Parise. They should have multiple guys place, though, and Tyler Gonska at 99 and Liam Erickson at 120 are guys who are working their way into the section title picture. But there’s still plenty of time to see how things play out.
The last thing I wanted to do was highlight a few standout performances from an exciting final four:
- There were a ton of quality wrestlers at 126 pounds, but the guy who came out of the day looking the strongest was New Rochelle’s AJ Barbaria. Not only did he major Brewster’s Tommy Gonska in the semis, but he also beat North Rockland’s Matt Caputo, 5-2. Barbaria is coming off of some concussion issues, which forced him to miss sectionals last season. I would have guessed that Caputo would have been the top guy here out of this group, but Barbaria made a big statement.
- North Rockland’s Blaise Benderoth had a great battle with New Rochelle’s Nick Barbaria at 106 pounds in the consolation dual. Benderoth won it, 9-7, and is clearly a contender for a section title. But it was also an impressive showing for Barbaria, who should be the favorite at 99 if he’s bumped down, as expected.
- When healthy, New Rochelle has the potential to be very strong in the heavier weights. Jonathan Stokes had a rough day at 195 dealing with a nagging ankle injury, which cost him an injury default against North Rockland. Against Brewster’s Greg Ross, Stokes pulled off a gutsy takedown with 10 seconds remaining for a 4-3 victory, but he was clearly hobbled. The Huguenots are dealing with injuries up and down their lineup, which hindered their performance on Wednesday. But with Butler, a healthy Stokes and Tyler Lilly, they could be very strong on the back end. Lilly wrestled at 285 and 220 yesterday, and picked up pins in each match. Another name to watch is Justin Douglas, who is a freakish athlete but is new to the sport. He was pinned by North Rockland’s Conner Reigotti at 285, but should develop as the year goes on. He’s one of New Ro’s top football players.
- While Brewster stole the headlines, North Rockland also gave Fox Lane a run for their money. Coach Andy Guccione pointed out three swing matches that didn’t go their way (99, 145 and 285), and that turned out to be the difference in the Foxes’ 40-30 win. I’d be very curious to see the Red Raiders get a shot at Brewster. Similarly to the Bears, North Rockland doesn’t have many holes in its lineup.