BEDFORD—It’s not often that the story of the day is a match that never came to fruition, but that was the case when Fox Lane hosted Ossining in each team’s season-opening dual meet on Friday.
Ossining senior Alex Delacruz – the only returning state champ in Section 1 – was possibly going to be lined up with Fox Lane’s super middle-schooler Matt Grippi, but both wrestlers were out with minor injuries.
“Alex will be back shortly,” Ossining coach Larry McRae said. “Right now, he’s just working and battling some nagging injuries. Other than that, he’ll be back in a couple of weeks. It’s a long season. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, so we’d rather have him in February than in December.”
With The Journal News’ reigning Westchester/Putnam wrestler of the year out for the Pride, the Foxes took the opportunity to display what will undoubtedly be one of the deepest lineups in Section 1 with an impressive 68-16 win.
“From Scott Rodrigues to (Ben) Ettlinger to (Frank) Surace to Johnny Clune, we have a lot of guys who we think are going to do really well this season,” senior Brandon Fay (pictured above) said. “I think that’s going to be the strength of our lineup, and we also have Grippi and I lower, so we really think we’re going to do well this year.”
Ossining kept it close with two wins from Clayton Francis (99 pounds) and Michael Carnevale (126) in the first five matches, but Fox Lane went on a dominant run in which it won every match from 132-220 pounds.
Rodrigues (138), Ettlinger (145; pictured to the left) and Surace (152) – three returning All-Section wrestlers – were lined up one after the other and represent the toughest stretch of the Foxes’ lineup.
“I feel like the work that I did in the offseason is going to help me in the long run,” Rodrigues said. “I was just trying to get out there and bang off some of the rust for the first match. It’s always a little nerve-racking for the first match of the year.”
Seven of Fox Lane’s 12 wins came via pin, which resulted in the lofty point total.
Alex Dago ended Ossining’s losing streak with a quick pin in his 285-pound bout, and McRae looked at it as a valuable experience for his young team.
“When (Fox Lane coach) Anthony (Rodrigues) asked me if we wanted to wrestle, I jumped right on it. Not often do you get an opportunity to wrestle a great team like Fox Lane,” McRae said. “They’ve probably got six or seven of the top wrestlers in the section, so I have a young team, and I can go and tell them that this is probably the best that they’re going to see this year.”
• What made the Foxes’ lopsided win ever more impressive was the fact that they didn’t even have their full varsity lineup. Aside from Grippi, who is dealing with a cut on his ear, they were also missing two other starters. “We were a little worried going into this match, but a lot of guys stepped up,” Fay said. “Our 132-pounder, Dillon Mead, he wrestled well, so it helped us out a lot.”
• Fay was wrestling up at 113 today, but he told me that he should be back at 106 by next week. Kyle Nelson was fiesty and kept things close for a bit, but Fay pulled away in the third period on his way to the technical fall. “I don’t know how long he’s wrestled for, but he was really strong and he came after me. He was pretty tough,” Fay said. “His aggressiveness was definitely a wake-up call, but as the match went on, I kind of figured out that he was just coming after me. I just used my deceptiveness, and it was pretty easy from there.”
• Where Fox Lane really started to heat up was at 138 pounds. Mead won by decision at 132 to get the winning streak started, but Rodrigues looked extremely sharp with his first-period pin of Austin Berger. He’s only a sophomore, but really sprouted in the offseason and has some length that is tough to deal with. He’s already bigger than his older brother, 2011 state champ Steven Rodrigues, even was in high school.
• Ettlinger and Surace also looked good with their own quick pins, while Alex Alexandrov (160), Matt Witz (170), Clune (195) and Asben Gejac (220) also won via pin. I got Ettlinger’s pin of Liam O’Conner on video. Having him, S-Rod and Surace back-to-back-to-back in the lineup is going to give opposing team’s headaches all year. “Once we got to their main guys,” McRae said. “Then it was downhill from there.”
• While the Foxes had a lot of reasons to feel good about themselves, Ossining did have a some positive performances. When I stopped by the Pride’s practice a few weeks ago, I asked McRae about other guys who he thinks will step up aside from Delacruz. The two he mentioned were Carnevale (pictured to the right) and Dago, and both came up with nice wins. Here is Carnevale’s major decision against Hayden at 126 pounds. “Mikey’s been working hard,” McRae said. “He became a captain this year, and I’m glad that he got the win.”
• You can watch Dago’s quick pin of Josh Martin at 285 pounds by clicking here. I have Dago currently ranked No. 5 in his weight class. He’s the only Ossining wrestler not named Delacruz who is ranked. “Dago has been chomping at the bit to get into a real wrestling match, and he finally got out there,” McRae said. “He started off slow, but he finished strong, so I’m proud about that.”
Here is the box score:
Fox Lane 68, Ossining 16
At Fox Lane Middle School
99 – Clayton Francis (O) pin Brandon Jaxton, 0:34. 106 – Michael Diaz (FL) by forfeit. 113 – Brandon Fay (FL) tech. fall Kyle Nelson, 21-5. 120 – Gonzalo Castillo (FL) by forfeit. 126 – Michael Carnevale (O) maj. dec. Nick Hayden, 11-0. 132 – Dillon Mead (FL) dec. Luis Redondo, 8-5. 138 – Scott Rodrigues (FL) pin Austin Berger, 1:04. 145 – Ben Ettlinger (FL) pin Liam O’Conner, 2:42. 152 – Frank Surace (FL) pin Derrick Gonzalez, 1:09. 160 – Alex Alexandrov (FL) pin Kaiel Blake, 1:33. 170 – Matt Witz (FL) pin Michael Morocho, 1:32. 182 – Sebastian Osorio (FL) by forfeit. 195 – John Clune (FL) pin Yamadin Brown, 1:34. 220 – Asben Gejac (FL) pin Matt Sherrill 1:34. 285 – Alex Dago (O) pin Josh Martin, 1:19.
Records – Fox Lane (1-0); Ossining (0-1).
Photos by Frank Becerra Jr./Videos by Vincent Z. Mercogliano