Around the Tappan Zee wrestling room, senior Mike Manni isn’t referred to as a three-time Rockland county champ, a two-time Section 1 champ, or even a state finalist.
He’s known simply as, “The Mayor.”
“They call him, ‘The Mayor,’ and I call him, ‘The Role Model,’ ” TZ coach Peter Dene said. “I’ve met thousands of kids as a teacher and as a coach, and there’s only one Mike Manni.”
Manni is about as soft-spoken and well-mannered of a wrestler as you’ll find, but on the mat, he’s been one of the most dominating super heavyweights that Section 1 has seen in the past decade.
He pinned every opponent that he faced in the section this year and went onto take second in the state at 285 pounds, earning The Journal New Rockland wrestler of the year honors.
“If it wasn’t for my teammates or coach Dene, I would not be in the place that I’m in right now,” Manni said. “They pushed me, and helped me believe in myself. From the start, coach Dene told me that he wanted me to be the heavyweight for the team for four years.”
They pushed each other, while also providing themselves with a top-notch practice partner.
“Having somebody of that level in the room with me was great,” Hartnett said. “We’d be friends off the mat and beat each other up on the mat. We knew we had to train hard together. If you saw us on the mat, you wouldn’t know that we were such good friends off it.”
Despite being slightly undersized and giving up an average of 30 pounds to his opponents, Manni was an unstoppable force at times.
Before his loss to Seaford’s James O’Hagan in the state finals, Manni’s only two losses were overtime decisions against John Glenn’s Edwin Rubio, one in the Shoreline finals, and one in the Eastern States Classic quarterfinals. But when he got a third shot at Rubio in the third place match at Eastern States, he made it count with a 2-1 decision.
“It’s just unbelievable maturity,” Dene said. “He took the loss at Shoreline almost like a learning experience. It was almost the perfect storm for him to lose that match. He had pinned everyone in 30 seconds before that. He was upset, but instead of punching lockers or doing anything like that, it just lit a fire and he went back to work. He was excited to wrestle him again. He said, ‘I know I can beat him.’ ”
Manni plans to enter an ROTC program in college, where he’ll continue to develop his leadership skills, before enlisting in the Army.
Then, who knows? Maybe one day, he’ll run for mayor.
“I get a kick out of it when they call me that,” Manni said. “I love it. I’ve always been one of those guys who doesn’t mind having responsibility. If I can be a role model to help somebody better themselves, that’s what I want to do. The older guys were there for me when I was younger, and I want to be there for the younger generation.”
The rest of the first team:
99 – Anthony Sulla, North Rockland: The sophomore placed third in the section in Division 1 and finished 42-5.
106 – Alex D’Angelo, North Rockland: The junior overcame early injury issues to capture his first Division 1 section title, finishing 36-6 with 18 pins.
113 – James Kelly, Pearl River: After winning a county title, the junior was upset during sectionals after an injury. The former section champ finished 30-6.
120 – Joe Dillon, Nanuet: The senior was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler for both the county championships and the Division 2 sectional championships. He won his second section title and finished 34-4.
126 – Daiton Powell, Suffern: The junior took second in the section in Division 1 and finished 37-5 with 23 pins.
132 – John Muldoon, Pearl River: The 2013 Rockland wrestler of the year won his second Division 1 section title, placing third at Eastern States and fifth in the state. He went 45-3 and will wrestle at Southern Illinois next season.
138 – Matt Caputo, North Rockland: The senior finished his career as the all-time winningest wrestler in county history with a total of 220. He also won his second Division 1 section title.
145 – James Giraldez, Nyack: The senior placed third in the section in Division 1 and finished 30-3 with 16 pins.
152 – Blaise Benderoth, North Rockland: The junior won his first Division 1 section title and placed third in the state. He also took second at Eastern States and finished 46-4 with 25 pins.
160 – Nick Didio, North Rockland: The senior captured his first Division 1 section title in one of the deepest fields in the tournament, finishing 41-7.
170 – Rob Gullo, Pearl River: The senior placed fifth in the section in Division 1 and finished 33-10 with 20 pins.
182 – Peter Pjetri, Suffern: The junior took second in the section in Division 1 and finished 33-6 with 22 pins.
195 – Austin Maurer, Clarkstown South: The senior placed fifth in the section in Division 1, finishing 26-7 with 16 pins.
220 – John Hartnett, Tappan Zee: The Sacred Heart-bound senior finished fifth in the state in Division 1 and took second at Eastern States. He finished 35-4 with 21 pins.
285 – Manni
Coach of the year
Jeff Swick, North Rockland: In two seasons as head coach for the Red Raiders, Swick is 2-for-2. With assistant coach John Hoke by his side, Swick led North Rockland to a Section 1 dual meet championship and overall Division 1 team section title, guiding four wrestlers to individual titles.
99 – Sean McGarvey, Fr., Pearl River; 106 – Peter Oliveto, Fr., Suffern; 113 – Maxim Kutsepau, So., Clarkstown North; 120 – Luke Francois, Sr., East Ramapo; 126 – Marlon Borge, Jr., North Rockland; 132 – Romello Bradley, So., East Ramapo; 138 – Stephen Lauro, So., Suffern; 145 – Noah Hovde, Sr., Tappan Zee; 152 – Frank Paratore, Sr., Nanuet; 160 – Dave Crispino, Sr., Clarkstown North; 170 – Alex Slaybaugh, Sr., Nanuet; 182 – Hassan Auwarter, Sr., Clarkstown South; 195 – Tyrick Jackson, Jr., Suffern; 220 – Bryan Kondracki, Sr., Pearl River; 285 – Matt St. Onge, Sr., Clarkstown South.
Eric Boyle, Jr., Nanuet; Connor Breit, Fr., Nanuet; Derek DiMarsico, Jr., North Rockland; Jason Fortugno, Sr., Clarkstown South; Nick Holahan, Sr., Clarkstown South; Brian Hong, Sr., Clarkstown North; Jake Kurzhals, So., Pearl River; Chris Lowery, Jr., Nanuet; Dylan Mateo, Fr., Nanuet; Conner Reigottie, Sr., North Rockland; Trey Wardlaw, So., East Ramapo.
File photos from The Journal News