For my first two seasons of covering wrestling, Harrison wasn’t a particularly deep or strong team. I can’t recall many tight dual meets that the Huskies pulled out during a couple of rebuilding years, but that’s all changed this season.
On Tuesday, Harrison continued to show that it’s an up-and-coming squad, avenging an early season loss to Port Chester with a convincing 49-28 win on the Rams’ home mat.
“We’ve been young the last few years,” coach Vin Nicita said. “Last year we didn’t have a senior on the team, and the kids knew coming into this year that they had a chance to be a pretty good team and they put in the work in the offseason. They went to mat clubs and camps – we had three kids go to a 28-day intensive camp in Minnesota – so they’ve put in the work. Right now we’re 10-3, and it’s been a great year so far.”
The Huskies were able to reverse some of the results that didn’t go their way when they met Port Chester at the Carlucci duals on the opening weekend of the season. They have a good blend of senior leadership to go along with a strong sophomore class, which has the future looking bright.
“It feels great,” Harrison senior David Polakoff said. “This is the best record that we’ve had since I’ve been in high school and in awhile for Harrison wrestling. We’re only going to get better, so it’s exciting.”
• In my mind, Polakoff’s win at 152 was the match that really ended any chance that the Rams had of making a comeback. Harrison had built an early lead, but Odell Alexander’s pin (pictured to the right) at 145 gave PC some hope. It looked like the Rams would get two wins in a row as John Guido had a two-point lead on Polakoff in the third period, but Polakoff was able to roll Guido onto his back for two points in closing seconds to force OT. From there, Polakoff got a quick takedown for the 9-7 decision. “I was pretty confident that I could turn him,” he said. “I’ve been turning kids all year from that tight waist tilt. There were 14 seconds left on the clock, and I didn’t panic. I just stuck to my game.”
• Polakoff’s dramatic win may have been the final straw, but the Huskies built their lead thanks to some strong performances in the 113-138 range. Gavin Menchel has been one of Harrison’s top wrestler for a few years now, and he took care of business with a second period pin agaisnt Osvin Velasquez in their 132-pound bout. “The kid was strong and tough, but I took him down and ended up putting him to his back,” Menchel said. “I knew that we needed a pin in order to win the match, so I got a cradle and pinned him.”
• Menchel, Polakoff and Joe Maida (120) are the seniors that set the tone for this group. Nicita calls them, “our Big Three,” but he also noted how pleased he has been with his sophomore class. Frankie Barchella (99), James Carducci (113), Josh Guerrero (126) and Dom Schepis (195) form a core that he hopes will bring the program continued success. “That’s four good sophomores who are really coming through for us,” Nicita said. “They’ve improved every day as the season has gone on, and it’s made a big difference for our team.”
• Three of the four sophs won for the Huskies, with Guerrero nearly pulling an upset in his match at 126. He was able to force overtime against PC’s Diego Giron, with Giron eventually winning with a 4-2 decision (pictured to the left). Still, Harrison ended any chance for PC to build momentum with Menchel and Max Lukaswitz (138) winning the next two matches via pin. “Vinny did a good job of adjusting his lineup to get the matchups that he wanted, and we just weren’t able to counter those moves. I think that made the difference,” Port Chester coach Greg Domestico said. “When we’re preparing for the match, we know that certain kids of theirs are just better than ours, and we expect them to win. Then you have your swing matches, and sometimes you don’t get a couple of them that you expect.”
• Perhaps the craziest match of the day came at 145, where Alexander bumped up from his usual 138-pound spot for PC. He went up 4-0 on Harrison’s Charles Florio, but then found himself down 8-4. Alexander is a streaky but talented wrestler, and he showed that in the third period when he was able to regain control of the match leading up to a pin. “That’s a lot of the time what we get out of him,” Domestico said. “He’s got a lot of energy and he never gives up, which you have to love about him. I think he fought off of his back a couple of times, and we have confidence in him. We bumped him up to wrestle a weight class up and he came through for us in that situation.”
Photos by Joe Larese/The Journal News