No one was quite sure how long it’s been, which tells me it’s been a pretty long time. Pearl River may not have held the lead at all on Thursday against league rival Tappan Zee, but the Pirates did rally back for a 40-39 after falling into a pretty deep hole.
The win marked their first against TZ in recent memory.
“We haven’t beat them in a while,” coach Grier Yorks said. “They’ve either been much better than us, or they’ve beaten us by one or two points. In the last three or four years we’ve had some really good matches with them, but they’ve been coming out on top. We finally got one.”
Pearl River’s win served as even more evidence of the parity – and strength – in Rockland this season. Duals between teams in the county have been extremely close, as each team is becoming more competitive.
“I think we opened the window for them to take it away from us,” TZ coach Peter Dene said. “They made it happen. I’m happy for them; it keeps the rivalry healthy, and hopefully we can redeem ourselves next year… They’re team has really, really come up. They’ve got young guys doing damage.”
• The dual started off right in the teeth of the Dutchmen lineup at 182 pounds. The upper weights have been TZ’s strength all year, with two guys at the top in John Hartnett (220 pounds) and Michael Manni (285) who should compete for section titles. With Kurt Romano (182) and Billy Madigan (195; pictured to the right) also coming up with pins, the Dutchmen were able to jump out to a 24-0 lead. I got Hartnett’s second period pin of David Avery on video, as he continues to look like the guy to beat in the section at 220. His shots were very smooth and clean for a big guy. “Our upper weights have been our anchor all year,” Dene said. “152 with Des (Djekovic) is solid, and we’re trying to fill in 160 and 170 – we haven’t really found the answer there yet – but 182, 195, 220 and super heavyweight have been the key to our success. It’s making us a good tournament team because these guys are going deep in tournaments, and it’s making us a decent dual team.”
• While the Pirates had been hoping not to give up six points in each of the first four matches, they knew that they had a chance to get a lot of those points back once they got to the bottom of the lineup. Ultimately, Pearl River would win eight of the final 11 matches to rally back for the win. Sean McGarvey set it off with a tech fall at 99, with James Kelly (106) winning by forfeit and Jake Kurzhals (113) winning by pin to make it 24-17. “We knew our lightweights could get the job done and get pins; that’s where our strong suit is,” junior Nick Simeti said. “Our heavyweights can hang in there, but our lighter weights are really our powerful kids.”
• After TZ’s Luke Jara broke the skid with a pin at 120, John Muldoon got Pearl River back on track with a tech fall at 126. The matchup at 132 featured two of the stronger wrestlers from each squad, marking a critical swing match for the Pirates to keep their comeback hopes alive. Simeti was sharp, defeating Carlos Aponte with a 5-0 decision to ensure that Pearl River would remain on the comeback trail. “I knew he was a pretty skilled wrestler, but I knew I had the skills to beat him,” Simeti said. “I just had to work hard, and it’s a mental game, really. I just kept a strong focus – I didn’t break in my head.”
• Simeti’s win (pictured to the left) cut the deficit to 30-25, but with Noah Hovde’s pin at 138 stretching it back to 36-25, the Pirates were running out of wiggle room. Djekovic was looming at 152 for TZ, so it was pretty clear which guys were going to have to come through for Pearl River to have a chance. Ryan Mullahy won at 145 with a late headlock-turned-pin in the third period against Tim De La Rosa in one of the most exciting matches of the day, and Shaun Carroll also came through with a pin at 160. “I’ve got guys in there who need to perform better,” Dene said. “At 145 I’ve got a junior, and 160 I’ve got a senior. They’re not the star athletes on the team or anything like that, but they made crucial mistakes giving up throws to their backs and getting pinned.”
• Djekovic won his match at 152 with a 7-1 decision over Rob Gullo, but it was the point that he didn’t get which would come back to haunt the Dutchmen. You can hear Dene in the video telling Djekovic to cut him with the score 7-0 and 30 seconds left to go for the major, but Gullo held him off and didn’t allow another takedown.
• Carroll’s pin at 160 made the score 39-37, meaning whoever won the final match at 170 would take the dual. On senior night, Pearl River senior Brendan Bourke seized the opportunity, defeating Stanley Berenson with an 11-6 decision to complete the comeback. Bourke came out strong and grabbed a 9-0 lead, holding on for the win. “I like being in those situations, especially if we’re down a little bit and need a pick up,” Bourke said. “It’s a great way to end (my senior) season. I knew that I had to get those two points for my team so we could win and end the season on a high note.”
Photos by John Meore/The Journal News