The last time the Westhampton Beach wrestling team won 14 dual meets in a season, current head coach Paul Bass was on the mat in a singlet instead of a shirt and tie.
During Bass’s junior year, the 1976-77 season, he and his Hurricane teammates finished the season with a spotless 14-0 record, setting the mark for the most dual meet wins in school history.
On Thursday, January 29, the current Westhampton Beach team tied that mark by beating Miller Place 44-19, and the following night they took sole ownership of the record, beating Bayport/Blue Point 35-12 to improve to 15-2 on the season.
Breaking the record was a particularly special achievement for the Westhampton Beach wrestlers, who have had a better season than most expected.
“It’s really exciting, because we thought it was going to be a rebuilding year,” junior captain Pete DeTore said after his team tied the mark with the Miller Place win. “I never expected that we’d win this many matches.”
Bass said that the fact his team wasn’t initially considered to be one of the top teams in Suffolk County has made the record-breaking season even sweeter.
“I told them how proud I was of them,” he said. “I told them, ‘You’ll have this for the rest of your life, and when you’re fat and old and gray like me, that will mean something.’”
The Canes have just one senior on their roster, 135-pounder Brian Lagoumis, who captains the team along with DeTore and junior Cory Hubbard. Lagoumis was honored after the match against Miller Place as part of senior night, also dubbed “Brian Lagoumis Night.”
After losing eight seniors to graduation last year, and with the knowledge that League VI is arguably the toughest league in Suffolk County, Bass wasn’t sure how competitive his team would be this season. But after the win over Miller Place, he said that the unexpected success is a tribute to a variety of factors that are often discounted.
“It shows you how important all those intangibles are, like character, accountability and feeling like a team,” he said. “Those are words that are thrown out and used too much, but this team is a perfect example of it.”
Throughout the season, the Canes have beaten their opponents by dominating the lower weight classes, where they typically pick up extra points by winning with pins, technical falls or major decisions. But in recent matches, the wrestlers in the higher weight classes have been stepping up, causing upsets and surprising teams by winning matchups their opponents thought would go the other way.
Against Bayport/Blue Point, the Canes won 10 of the 13 matches that were contested, while forfeiting the 215-pound weight class. Westhampton Beach did not come up with any pins in the match, but Hurricane wrestlers were consistently better than the Phantoms in nearly every weight class: at 103 pounds, Conner Bass won a 16-7 decision; DeTore (112) won a 10-4 decision; Zach Bass (119) prevailed 6-0; Hubbard (125) won by technical fall in 5:02; Danny Maddock (130) won 14-8; Lagoumis (135) won a 12-1 decision; Brian Higgins (140) won 14-1; Scott Carey (145) prevailed 7-0; Matt Mazarakis (152) won 6-0; and Brian Kobus earned a 9-2 win. Hurricanes Bobby Garone (171) and Brian Moore (189) both suffered 5-2 losses.
“I told my guys that Bayport is solid at every weight,” Coach Bass said. “I think we’re better in nine or 10 matches, but if you sleep on these guys, sometimes they can beat you. But we wrestled solid to win 10 of 13.”
In that match, Hubbard broke the school record for most career wins by an individual wrestler, tallying his 99th victory. The record was previously held by county champion Nick Broccoli, who had 98 win in 2006. County champion Steve Kobus tallied 97 victories in 2007.
Coach Bass said that Hubbard has made his mark rather quietly, and that’s been a big reason why the Canes have been successful.
“He’s been overlooked this year and it has really helped us out a lot,” he said. “Him and Zach are at 119, and everybody assumed because Zach is ranked in the county that he’s better. Other coaches have tried to maneuver their good kids away from Zach.”
Bass pointed out his team’s win over Mt. Sinai in particular, where Hubbard defeated standout Anthony Powers at 125 pounds, leading to what the Mustangs saw as an upset.
Of the three consecutive matches that the Canes wrestled last week, their closest margin of victory was against Shoreham/Wading River, where they prevailed 36-28. Mazarakis and Kobus sealed the win in that match, getting pins at 152 and 171 pounds, respectively, to give their team an insurmountable lead with one match remaining. Conner Bass, DeTore, Hubbard, Lagoumis, Carey and Garone all picked up wins that day as well to help their team.
“They’re hard to match up against,” Coach Bass said of Shoreham. “We had to move things around, because they have four very good kids, and we had to try to avoid putting our best against their best.”
Coach Bass expected the meet against Miller Place to be a nail-biter decided by a few points, but thanks to another strong effort from the beefier end of the lineup, the Canes had the victory wrapped up with two matches left to wrestle.
Sophomore Matt Mazarakis (152 pounds) sealed the win when he pinned Jordan Kowalenko in 59 seconds, giving Westhampton Beach a 35-19 lead with two matches left to wrestle. Brian Kobus (160) extended the lead in the next bout, pinning Matt Mangelli in 4:56, before Bobby Garone (171) won a 6-3 decision over Tyler Simon to provide the final margin.
The match started at 189 pounds, where Miller Place standout Zach Buonaiuto pinned Brian Moore in 54 seconds to earn his 100th career win. Buonaiuto is the top-ranked wrestler in his weight class in Suffolk County.
Westhampton Beach forfeited the 215-pound weight class, and after 96-pounder Will Dodd was pinned by John Steiger in 4:57, the Canes were down 18-0.
Conner Bass, the fifth-ranked wrestler in the county at 103 pounds, put Westhampton Beach on the board by pinning Cory Aschauer in 4:40, and DeTore followed by beating Jack Martocello by technical fall in 5:50, cutting the deficit to 12-11. Zach Bass (119) followed with a 3-2 win over Chris Aschauer, putting the Canes up 14-12. Hubbard (125) then pinned Mike Fortovis in 1:20, extending the lead to 20-12.
Miller Place cut Westhampton Beach’s lead to 20-19 after Anthony Genovese beat Danny Maddock 13-5 in a major decision, and Rob Young defeated Lagoumis 7-1. Freshman Mitchell Labianca was originally announced as the Miller Place starter at 130 pounds, but Genovese—a senior who weighed in at 125 pounds—took the mat for the Panthers instead as part of a last-minute lineup change.
Lagoumis had to fight hard in the final 30 seconds of his match to avoid getting pinned, and coach Bass said he felt that Young was able to get Lagoumis on his back by using an illegal move.
But after Lagoumis lost, the Canes rattled off the final five victories in convincing fashion.
At 140 pounds, Brian Higgins had one of the most exciting matches of the night, beating Darren Serignese 4-2 in a match that, according to coach Bass, the Panthers were certainly expecting to win.
“That was the best match he’s wrestled all year,” said Bass, who greeted Higgins when he came off the mat telling him, “That’s what I’ve been waiting for.”
Scott Carey followed Higgins’s win by pinning Chris Defichy in 3:10 after falling behind 4-0 to start the match. Next up was Matt Mazarakis (152), who sealed the victory with his pin.
According to Bass, Mazarakis’s victory was also unexpected by Miller Place. “Matt has just taken it to a whole new level in the last two weeks,” Bass said. “They thought they’d be getting bonus points there.”
If Mazarakis and his teammates continue to perform at the high level they’ve attained recently, they should have a strong presence in the postseason, although Bass acknowledged that the League VI tournament—which will take place at Shoreham/Wading River High School on Saturday, February 7—will showcase plenty of fierce competition.
“Our league is ridiculous,” he said. “I have guys who I think have an outside shot of placing at counties, and I don’t even know if they’ll get out of the league. It’s nuts.”
After soaking in the victory over Miller Place, the Canes wrestlers and a large contingent of parents stuck around to honor Lagoumis, who Bass said has provided strong leadership.
“He’s literally one of the nicest kids I’ve ever coached,” Bass said. “He’s the kind of kid you want your daughter to date. He’s shown the freshmen what it’s like to be a leader. He wasn’t part of our original plan, but he quietly went about his business, and he’s come up with some big wins this year.”