There’s no disputing that North Rockland is the best team in Section 1 at the moment, and not many people expected that to change going into today’s dual meet showdown with two-time D2 champ Nanuet. But after the Red Raiders’ eked out a 37-28 win, you could make a case for the Golden Knights as next best team that the section has to offer – regardless of school size.
“Coming into this match, I was thinking they were probably going to give us the toughest match we’ve had this year in the section,” North Rockland coach Jeff Swick said. “I’ve been following them, I knew they won the small school (dual meet title), and I knew they were tough in the upper weights where we’re not as strong. Coming into this match, I knew it was going to be tight. I didn’t think it would be that tight, but I knew it would be a close one.”
There were several really competitive matches in the dual, with quite a few coming down to the wire. The North Rockland lineup is loaded with quality wrestlers, but Nanuet proved that it could match the Red Raiders in more weight classes than any D1 team has been able to thus far.
While the bottom line here is that North Rockland proved once again that it is the class of Section 1, the Golden Knights look like they could have one of the most complete D2 teams that we’ve seen since the section was split into two divisions.
“One of the things that we’ve been talking about for the last couple of years on this team is that we don’t want to just be the best small school – we want to be the best school in the section,” Nanuet coach Carmine Serra said. “I think we’re getting closer to the top level, and we’ll see how it goes the rest of the way.”
• North Rockland had built a 34-18 lead going into the final three matches, but two consecutive wins from Peter Jones (170) and Mike Buhlmann (182) made it 34-28 to pull Nanuet within striking distance. A win at 195 pounds would have given the Golden Knights eight total, which meant that if they tied the Red Raiders with a six-point pin they would have won the dual as a result of the tiebreaker. I asked North Rockland’s 195-pounder Colton Charles about the importance of avoiding a pin in the final match. His response made me chuckle. “It was the No. 1 thing on my mind,” he said. “I knew if I went to my back, I would have been in a lot of trouble.”
• Charles ended up in some dangerous situations in what turned out to be a frantic first period. As you can see in the video, Nanuet’s Kevin Brundage nearly catches him with an awkward pin near the end of the opening period, but Charles wiggles free and settles down to come up with a crucial 10-7 win by decision. “I’m not going to lie, I was nervous,” Charles said. “But I fought through and came off of my back.”
• The dual got off to a rousing start with an upset giving Nanuet early momentum. Jason Levine defeated returning section-placer Conner Reigottie at 285 pounds with an 8-7 decision in the second match of the day. You can see that Levine (pictured to the right) is raw, but he’s strong and athletic, and he’s come up with a few impressive wins already this season. He could be this year’s version of New Rochelle’s Justin Douglas in D2. “As a junior coming out for the first time – he wrestled as an eighth-grader, but not since then – every week he’s growing and growing,” Serra said. “It’s a confidence thing with him, and the more he wrestles, the better he’s going to feel and the more he’s going to know what to do in certain situations.”
• Levine’s win came after a quick pin from Dan Breit at 220 pounds too start the dual, giving the Golden Knights a 9-0 lead. But Alex D’Angelo (99) and Marlon Borge (106) each picked up pins leading up to a Nanuet forfeit at 113, helping North Rockland quickly steal the lead and go up 18-9. Those two have come up from JV and really solidified the bottom of the Red Raiders’ lineup. “Those two guys have actually been really solid down there,” Swick said. “They’re both first year guys in the varsity lineup, and they’ve been consistently workmen-like, getting wins and falls when we need them. I’m very impressed with what they’ve been doing. Those two pins definitely took some of the sting away from those first two matches.”
• The more highly anticipated matches of the day took place from 120-145 pounds. Two-time D2 state qualifier Joe Dillon gave Nanuet another big win in a swing match with his 3-2 decision over D1 section-placer Derek DiMarsico. There wasn’t much offense in the match, but Dillon turned it on in the third period for a late takedown to overcome a 2-1 deficit. “I wasn’t sure if I was going to bump Derek to 120; it depended on if they had a backup at 113,” Swick said. “When I saw they didn’t, I figured he would have a better shot of getting the win. I was happy with the way that he wrestled and I think he could have won, but getting bumped up at the last minute, I do give him credit.”
• Nanuet’s most accomplished wrestler – four-time D2 state qualifier Anthony Calvano – also canceled out one of the Red Raiders’ better wrestlers. He was impressive in his 10-4 decision over D1 section-placer Troy Feniger, but he sounded like he was hoping to get the major to give his team an extra point. “I hadn’t wrestled him before,” Calvano said. “I wish I came out a little different… I was hoping I would be able to pull it together for us (to get the major decision).”
• After Calvano’s win cut North Rockland’s lead to 18-15, the Red Raiders responded by winning four of the next five matches from 132-160, which is a big reason they were able to hold on for the win. Jake DiMarsico nearly pulled off a tech fall in his 132-pound bout against Billy Thompson, but settled for a 14-0 major decision. “We definitely knew that they were tough up top, so our lower weights had to get it done. We tried to rack up as many points as we could,” DiMarsico said. “I’m definitely disappointed in my win. I wanted to get the tech or pin.”
• Today’s win maintains North Rockland’s unbeaten record, but the Red Raiders have another big test coming on Thursday. At this point, I’d say that the best dual meet team from Section 1 that they haven’t seen yet is Fox Lane, but they’ll be traveling to take on the Foxes on Thursday. That should be another fun one…
• REMINDER: I’ll be hosting our first live LoHud Wrestling chat of the season tomorrow night at 7:30! Be sure to join in and submit your questions!
Photos by John Meore/The Journal News