It seemed like a pretty logical and harmless decision when I chose to attend the Sleepy Hollow-Yonkers matchup today at Gorton HS, but it turned out to be one of the most exciting dual meets that I’ve seen all season. Everything fell into place – from the weight class in which the dual started, to the way that each swing match played out – leading to a dramatic finish.
Sleepy rallied back for the 40-39 win, but this also served as further evidence that Yonkers is making serious progress.
“They were really tough,” Sleepy Hollow senior Edwin Jimenez said. “We did not sleep on them, though, because we knew they were a tough team. It showed, because they were beating us until the last match.”
It was Jimenez who came up with a pin in his 138-pound bout to give the Headless Horsemen a one-point victory, but there were a handful of notable matches in this one. In the past, it may have been considered an accomplishment for Yonkers to hang so close with one of the better teams in the section, but no longer.
“Yes and no,” Yonkers coach Pete Vulpone said when I asked if he was happy with his team’s performance. “I guess it’s respectable, but still not a win.”
• The dual began at 145 pounds, setting up some of the top wrestlers from each team to face off early. Elieser Maldonado has led a strong sophomore class from Yonkers, but Steven Bencosme (pictured above) proved to be too much to handle. After an aggressive start and a quick takedown from Maldonado, Bencosme settled down to take control on his way to a 15-4 major decision. “We knew they were strong where we were strong,” Sleepy Hollow coach Brian Tompkins said. “I felt that if we were going to win this thing, we really had to start off (well) and get the ball rolling. We pulled the card out and it said, ‘145,’ so we had the meat of the lineup right away.”
• Jack McGovern’s pin at 152 gave Sleepy a 10-0 lead, but most expected Yonkers to get a good portion of those points back with its best wrestler coming up at 160. Senior Ibrahim Simreen (pictured to the right) entered the day as Yonkers’ only remaining undefeated wrestler, but he found himself facing a one-point deficit against Kevin Ortiz with 30 seconds remaining in the final period. With Ortiz on top, Simreen manged to pull off the dramatic reversal and avoid his first defeat with a 17-14 decision. “That was nice to get the win, but I expect more from him,” Vulpone said of Simreen. “I would have liked to have seen a pin – a pin would have changed the score of the match – but that’s what didn’t happen.
• After a forfeit at 170 gave the Headless Horsemen a 16-3 lead, Yonkers went on its run. Mark Anthony Perez (182), Charles Batista (195) and Joe Marji (220) rattled off three straight pins to put Yonkers on top 21-16 heading into a crazy match at 285. “I knew that we weren’t quite as strong in the upper two or three weight classes (before 285),” Tompkins said “Frank (Curnaj) nearly gave me a heart attack when he got tossed to his back in the beginning, but he came through for us.”
• Aside from Jimenez at 138, Curnaj at 285 was considered to be one of the biggest slam dunk wins for Sleepy. And while Curnaj did end up with a relatively quick pin, it was the way that the match started which nearly sent Tompkins flying out of his chair. Branden Jaikaran caught the entire gym off guard with an immediate takedown, sending the crowd into a temporary frenzy. With three back points, Jaikaran went up 5-0, but that seemed to be the wake-up call that Curnaj needed. Once he wiggled free, he pinned Jaikaran at the 1:02 mark. “I was going to use his momentum on the cowboy to flip him, but I had my foot wrong, and he ended up flipping me,” Curnaj said. “I found myself stuck there, but I fought my way up and threw him on his back.”
• While Curnaj’s pin seemed to give Sleepy the momentum back, Yonkers went on another run in the lighter weights. Wins from Justin Lopez (99), David Ortiz (106; pictured to the left) and Fredy Guevero (120) gave Yonkers a 36-34 lead heading into the 132-bout, but with Jimenez on deck, it would take a pin to ensure a win. Zack Paul took Luis Rivas to his back more than once, but just missed on sticking the pin. He settled for a 10-9 decision, but the three points wouldn’t be enough to hold off the Headless Horsemen. “I know Tompkins knew if his kid didn’t stay off his back, he was going to lose, and I knew that I needed a pin,” Vulpone said. “It was exciting. That was really the match that was going to decide who wins. If we got a pin, we would have won, but we only got a decision, so we came up one point short.”
• With Paul’s win extending Yonkers’ lead to 39-34, the door was left open for Jimenez to win it with a pin. He wasted little time, taking Christian Zaccaro to his back within the first minute to give Sleepy the win. “I was focused,” Jimenez said. “It was down to me; do or die. Coach came up to me before and said, ‘We need six (points). Try to pin him in the first period,’ and I went out and did that.”
Here is the full box score:
Sleepy Hollow 40, Yonkers 39
145 – Steven Bencomse (SH) maj. dec. Elieser Maldonado, 15-4. 152 – Jack McGovern (SH) pin Luis Hernandez, 2:00. 160 – Ibrahim Simreen (Y) dec. Kevin Ortiz, 17-14. 170 – Adam Hofling (SH) by forfeit. 182 – Mark Anthony Perez (Y) pin Mike Arpi, 1:33. 195 – Charles Batista (Y) pin Chris Hutter, 3:44. 220 – Joe Marji (Y) pin Nate Christian, 0:59. 285 – Frank Curnaj (SH) pin Branden Jaikaran, 1:02. 99 – Justin Lopez (Y) pin Toby Humm, 1:28. 106 – David Ortiz (Y) dec. Jon Guamantarao, 14-13. 113 – Ray Rodriguez (SH) by forfeit. 120 – Fredy Guevero (Y) pin Joe Hiciano, 2:41. 126 – Sebastian Kent (SH) by forfeit. 132 – Zack Paul (Y) dec. Luis Rivas, 10-9. 138 – Edwin Jimenez (SH) pin Christian Zaccaro, 0:51.
Photos by Carucha L. Meuse/The Journal News