The Westhampton Beach wrestling team went into last week with a chance to tie for the League VI championship. Standing in their way were Shoreham/Wading River, one of the top-ranked teams in the state, and Elwood/John Glenn, a program with a tradition of excellence.
Hurricanes head coach Paul Bass had watched his young team defy its collective inexperience and surprise squads all season long, but that magic did not carry through to last week as Westhampton Beach dropped both matches to finish the regular season in third place with a 4-3 record. Westhampton Beach was downed 40-32 at home against Shoreham (7-0) last Wednesday, January 25, before losing 34-31 at home to Glenn (5-2) on Senior Night the following evening.
Bass was happy with his team’s effort in the loss to Shoreham, but had decidedly different feelings about the loss to Glenn.
“We would’ve had to wrestle the perfect match to beat Shoreham,” Bass said. “All 15 kids would’ve had to do their job and that’s hard. We gave it a good run. Shoreham is 20-0 and ranked in the state.”
Still, Bass said he expected his team to beat Glenn.
“I thought we were the better team,” he said. “Glenn has five very good guys and we did our job against those guys. The problem is that we didn’t get it on the other end.”
The five Glenn wrestlers Bass referred to—James DeKrone (138 pounds), Nick Bellanza (182), Tom Sewell (132), Sam Rachman (145) and Nick Princiotta (152)—are all ranked in the top five in Suffolk County in their respective weight classes. Bass said that, in those matches, he did not necessarily expect his wrestlers to win but wanted them to avoid getting pinned and giving up bonus points. If they could do that, he felt his team would fare well enough in the other matches to win.
The five Hurricanes who wrestled the Glenn standouts did what their coach expected of them. Christian Intorica lost 4-1 to Sewell; Matt Higgins fell to DeKrone—ranked first in the county and state—by technical fall, avoiding the pin; Liam Bass lost 8-0 to Rachman; and Devon Hogan lost 13-1 to Princiotta. Jake Martin, who wrestled Bellanza, was the only one of the five to get pinned.
But of the remaining 10 matches, Westhampton Beach won only seven, which was not enough to push them past the Knights.
Alex Tanzman (99), Nick Strand (113), Pete Broccoli (126), Bryan Curry (160), Ben Zeqiri (170), Sebastian Antonio (195) and Sean Ryan (220) all picked up wins for Westhampton Beach. Tyler Yastrub, one of Westhampton Beach’s top wrestlers, did not compete due to a minor injury.
A night earlier, the Hurricanes put in a good effort against Shoreham, which boasts four county-ranked wrestlers and has a strong team. Tanzman, Kyle Maddock (106), Strand, Broccoli, Christian Intorcia, Bass and Hogan picked up wins for the Hurricanes.
Tanzman was the highlight of the meet. The junior is currently ranked second in the county at 99 pounds and took on another county-ranked wrestler, James Szymanski. What, on paper, should have been a close match was not as Tanzman dominated in a 12-0 major decision.
“Alex has had a lot of matches with kids that aren’t at his level, but this kid was supposed to be at his level,” Bass said. “He just absolutely destroyed him.”
Prior to matches over the weekend, Tanzman had more pins than any high school wrestler in New York State. He boasts a 34-1 record, with 30 pins, two technical falls and two major decisions. He sits behind Joe Calderone of Whitman in the county rankings. Though they have not faced each other this season, Calderone edged Szymanski 3-2 in a match earlier this year.
Bass said his team’s loss to Shoreham wasn’t disappointing, considering the strength of their opponents.
“I thought we wrestled hard against Shoreham and our inexperience just caught up with us a bit,” he said. “Against Glenn, I was not happy. That was the first time all year that we lost a match I felt we should have won.”
Bass did point out that his team’s three league losses all came by less than 10 points.
“We only returned two starters this year and had a lot of inexperience, but we ended up 14-6 overall,” he said.
After the Glenn match, Westhampton Beach recognized its seniors: Higgins, Curry, Ryan, Yastrub and Will Dodd. Dodd has missed most of this season with an injury and just started wrestling again last week.
The Hurricanes will now turn their focus to the League VI Championships at Miller Place High School on Saturday. Tanzman is a heavy favorite to win the league title at 99 pounds, but the rest of the wrestlers on the Hurricanes’ squad will be fighting for top-three finishes. The top three wrestlers in each weight class advance to the Suffolk County Tournament, while fourth-place finishers are alternates for counties.
Bass said he believes many of his wrestlers have the talent to reach the counties, but added that they must rise to the occasion on Saturday.
“We’re going to have a lot of third, fourth and fifth seeds, so it’s just a matter of them being ready,” he said.
When asked how many of his wrestlers he expected to make it to counties, Bass said it was hard to guess.
“We could be in double digits or we could end up with four,” he said. “A lot of guys are on the bubble, so it’s going to depend on what they bring Saturday. I’m very optimistic. This was an inexperienced team that has gained a lot of experience this year and they have a really good work ethic.”
ON THE SCHEDULE: Saturday, 2/4, League VI Championships at Miller Place, 9 a.m.