HARRISON — Pearl River coach Grier Yorks rattled off instructions in Jack Chesman’s ear just moments before the biggest bout of his young career, but the seventh grader heard none of it.
“I don’t really remember. I kind of zoned him out,” Chesman said with a laugh. “For most of it, I zoned everybody out and went into my own little world there.”
Chesman has earned a starting spot in the Pirates’ lineup at the tender age of 12 years old, and he found himself thrust into a make-or-break match in the quad meet round of the Section 1 Dual Meet Championships on Wednesday.
Pearl River was trailing rival Tappan Zee by three points going into the final bout with a trip to the Division 1 quarterfinals on the line, but Chesman came through with a second period pin to give the Pirates a thrilling 39-36 win.
“I felt pretty pressured, to tell you the truth,” the 120-pounder said. “If I didn’t win that, the whole team would have been upset.”
The Pirates took an early lead over the Dutchmen with wins in four of the first five matches, with a strategic move by Yorks paying off. He decided to bump his best wrestler – The Journal News’ reigning Rockland wrestler of the year John Muldoon – up to 145 pounds to negate TZ’s best middleweight, Noah Hovde.
“I didn’t really know going in,” said Muldoon after winning with a 7-4 decision. “I went to run out (for the 138-pound bout), and they were like, ‘No, you’re going 145.’ I was like, ‘Alright,’ but I had no idea. I thought Noah was like 160, so to see him at 145 was kind of jaw-dropping, but it all worked out.”
Muldoon’s win put Pearl River up 18-6, but the Dutchmen won five of the next seven matches to take a 36-27 lead. A Tappan Zee forfeit at 106 pounds pulled the Pirates to within striking distance, and then Chesman took care of the rest.
“We know they’re kind of the team to beat here, so I think some guys stepped it up. For the first day of matches in the season, I was proud of the guys,” TZ coach Peter Dene said. “I think our duals with them have come down to the last match like three or four years in a row.”
To get to Pearl River, the Dutchmen overcame a 20-point deficit against Harrison in the opening dual meet of the day. Edwin Rodriguez (195 pounds), John Hartnett (220) and Mike Manni (285) pulled off late wins to give TZ a dramatic 41-39 victory over the host.
“We knew we had to get off to a good start because we knew how strong they are up top,” Harrison coach Vin Nicita said. “Everything went great – it was exactly the way we had to start – but when we got to those matches up in the heavier weights, there were a couple of matches that could have went either way.”
• The Huskies got off to a great start against TZ, winning every match from 113-138, with four of the five wins coming via pin from Frankie Barchella (113), Max Uretta (120), James Carducci (126) and Max Lukaswitz (132). I got Lukaswitz’s second period pin of Mike Sullivan on video. I wrote the other day that I thought Harrison had a chance against the Dutchmen, and for a little while, it appeared as if the Huskies might run away with it. “I’m happy,” Nicita said. “I think we did a nice job, but I think we can do better. We just have to develop a little more mental toughness, which will come with experience. The kids have to believe that they can win in those one or two point matches.”
• Once they hit 145 pounds, TZ made its run. Pins from Hovde (145), Trevor Schaller (152), Jeff Martinez (160) and Kyle Mirabal (170) put the Dutchmen ahead 28-27, but Dom Schepis seized the lead back for Harrison with a pin at 182. With defending section champs Hartnett and Manni looming for TZ, it looked like the 195-pound bout could decide the dual. Rob Donohue had a 9-8 lead on Rodriguez heading into the final period, and still held it with time running out. Then, with under a second remaining, Rodriguez pulls a reversal and gets a couple of back points for a miraculous 12-9 win. Initially, they signaled a pin for Rodriguez, but it was decided that time expired before the pin, and it looks like they got it right based on the video. The clock cuts out of the frame in the final seconds, but you can see a “0.7” flash on the upper left hand side of the screen just as Rodriguez is pulling his reversal. What a match. “That’s a brand new guy who we actually bumped from 182,” Dene said of Rodriguez. “Today was actually his first day wrestling. He’s out there figuring it out, and I have to give him a lot of credit for that. He was nervous. He barely knows wrestling, but he knows enough to go out there and go for it.”
• After Rodriguez gave the Dutchmen a critical win, Hartnett and Manni took care of the rest with back-to-back pins. You can watch Manni’s second-period pin of Max McMullen here.
• Pearl River handled Mamaroneck with a 59-18 win in its opening dual, and I got Sean McGarvey’s major decision over Charlie Saez at 106 on video.
• I liked Yorks’ decision to bump Muldoon up to 145 — not only because we got to see a great match, but because he was able to take out one of TZ’s top three wrestlers in Hovde. Nick Simeti took care of business at Muldoon’s usual 138 spot with a win, and Muldoon was able to beat Hovde with a closer than expected 7-4 decision. Hovde really hung in tough and made Muldoon sweat, but a couple of takedowns via the ankle grab did him in. Some people were surprised that the match was so close, but Hovde will be a contender at 145 this season, and Muldoon was giving up about 10 pounds to him. I asked Muldoon if he feels any extra pressure because everyone expects him to be perfect. “Yeah it does, but when he had the injury time, we were laughing and joking. Cracking jokes and trying to take the pressure off,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for him. He’s a strong kid, and he works hard.”
• Muldoon’s win gave the Pirates an 18-6 lead, but TZ won three of the next four matches to tie it at 24-24. Jack Arnold came up big for Pearl River with a 5-1 decision at 195 pounds to help his team regain the lead, and then Bryan Kondracki did a great job of keeping it close against Hartnett and only losing by a decision. Those three points that he saved by avoiding the pin ended up being the exact margin of victory for the the Pirates. “I can’t tell you how disappointed I am,” Dene said. “You’ve got a returning section champ against a guy who he’s completely overmatching, and he just didn’t get the job done. I think out of six minutes, he probably wrestled 20 seconds. I’m hoping that was just the first day match jitters.”
• Ultimately, it came down to Chesman, who didn’t disappoint with a second-period pin of Pat Henry at 120 pounds to give Pearl River six points and a 39-36 win. I was shocked when I found out that he’s only in seventh grade. “Chesman is doing freestyle, he’s doing Greco, he’s doing all of the different types of styles,” Muldoon said. “He’s wrestling all year round, and he’s taken his lumps. And he’s learned.”
• I went seven for eight with my picks in D1 on Wednesday, with the big upset being Mahopac over Brewster. You can see the box scores and the matchups for tomorrow by clicking here. I’ll be back in the morning to give you guys my plan for Thursday.
Photo by Peter Carr/Videos by Vincent Z. Mercogliano