Southampton’s Rafal Rokosz appears to be right on track to return to the New York State Division II Wrestling Championships after placing seventh in the 220-pound weight class during the Eastern States Classic held at Sullivan County Community College in Loch Sheldrake, New York, last weekend.
The Eastern States Classic is considered the premier wrestling tournament in the Northeast. Many consider it more prestigious than the New York State Championships, because it features wrestlers not only from multiple states, but both Division I and Division II athletes, including those attending private and Catholic schools. The tournament also has full, 32-man brackets and there is a waiting list that many of the wrestlers have to get on before making the tournament.
Rokosz was seeded 12th in his weight class and got started on the right foot by pinning Mason Cross of Penfield (Section V-Genesee Valley) in 3:46. In the Round of 16, Rokosz pinned fifth-seeded Brian Tenny of Farmingdale, who was the Nassau County runner-up last season, in 1:09.
In the quarterfinals, Rokosz lost what Southampton head coach Lester Ware said was a controversial 3-2 decision to fourth-seeded Rob Kelly of Monroe-Woodbury (Section IX, Dutchess, Orange, Sullivan, Ulster counties) sending him to the wrestleback portion of the tournament. Ware said he thought Rokosz had what looked like a takedown, but the referee didn’t agree.
Rokosz, in his first wrestleback match, defeated Troy Grant of New Paltz (Section IX) 5-0. Grant was last year’s Section IX Division II champion and eliminated Peter Strassfield from the state tournament. Rokosz advanced to face Vin Feola of Walt Whitman and lost a close 4-3 match, which Ware said was also somewhat controversial. In the match for seventh place, Rokosz faced off against Tenny again and won 6-1 in overtime with what Ware described as a spectacular throw.
Rokosz, who lost his first two matches upstate last season, said he would have liked to have placed higher—losing two matches by one point was tough, he said—but he’s satisfied by going 4-2. Ware said he picked up some very important seeding points for the state meet, which is next month.
“I went to states last year and didn’t do so good,” Rokosz said. “At the state meet, it’s a much bigger arena and atmosphere, there’s a lot more people and maybe more pressure. But this Eastern States, it has a bigger bracket with twice as many wrestlers, and while the atmosphere is much smaller, it’s much more tense and a much better experience, I think.
“I was much more relaxed this time around than I was last year at states,” he continued. “I’ve been practicing a lot and I did a lot offseason wrestling. I’ve gotten used to feeling the pressure and I can deal with it a lot more now.”
Rokosz said winning four matches has given him a major boost going forward this season. “Wrestling that type of competition has definitely given me the confidence to do well,” he said. “There’s always been a bias against Division II wrestlers, but I feel I proved I can do well in those type of tournaments.”
Peter Strassfield also competed at the Eastern States Classic, in the 285-pound weight class, but did not fare as well as Rokosz. Seeded eighth, Strassfield was upset in the first round by Isaac Eddings of Union-Endicott (Section IV-Southern Tier), getting pinned in 1:10.
In his first round of wrestlebacks, Strassfield pinned Austin Cox of Clovis West High School in Fresno, California, in 3:40 and then pinned Nikola Cejic, the 15th seed out of Johnson City (Section IV). But Strassfield was pinned 50 seconds into his next match by fifth-seeded Dan Babcock of Deposit-Hancock (Section IV).
“I think Rafal and Peter got a very clear picture of what they have to work on for the counties and states, and that it is time to ratchet it up,” Ware said.
The Mariners, meanwhile, suffered at 54-36 loss at Hampton Bays last Thursday, January 9. Six matches were forfeited throughout the event, three by each team, but the Baymen were able to win by pin in six of the nine matches that were wrestled.
Southampton’s Mitchell Pena, Chris Osufsen and Thomas Roughan all secured pins. Pena pinned Kenneth Giron in 3:42, Osufsen pinned Kevin Lainez in 5:32 and Roughan pinned Max Gembenski in 1:30.
Ware didn’t have much to say about the loss, only that Hampton Bays wrestled very well.
Hampton Bays wrestling head coach Rafael Lievano thinks his team is on the verge of turning a corner, and after last week’s success, it would be hard to argue with him.
After defeating Southampton, 54-36, at home last Thursday, January 9, for their first League VII win of the season, the Baymen went to the David Sorensen Memorial Invitational at Long Island Lutheran High School on Saturday and came away with eighth-place honors.
Hampton Bays suffered a 66-9 loss at Mattituck, the third ranked Division II team in the state, on January 8, but it was a glitch in an otherwise great week.
“I think our guys are finally starting to get down to the weight they’re all supposed to be at,” Lievano said. “And if we can get all of our guys at their weights, we could be a pretty tough team to beat. But if the guys don’t continue to come in at their correct weights, it could create logjams and that would hurt us.”
Cody Nolan won the 160-pound weight class at the David Sorensen Tournament with a 2-1 victory over Troy Miller of Shoreham/Wading River’s “B” team. Victor Alamo (132 pounds), Ralph Oswald (138), Travis Flynn (145) and Erik Ramirez (195) all took second-place honors after losing their matches in the finals. Alamo was pinned by Lutheran’s Travis Alexander in 1:35. Oswald lost a 4-2 decision to Lutheran’s Mack Berkowitz and Flynn lost, 6-2, to Lutheran’s James Farrell. And Ramirez fell, 11-7, to Shoreham/Wading River’s Max Goldfarb. Lievano said Alexander, Berkowitz and Farrell are Lutheran’s top wrestlers.
Anthony Mora (113) pinned Mike Byrus of Hauppauge’s “B” team in 1:50 to place third. Lucas Kraus (106) got caught in a bad position and was pinned in 30 seconds by Centereach’s Pat Scally to finish fourth. And Johnny Nolan lost a tight 1-0 contest to Lutheran’s Nick Bernardo at 152 pounds and placed fourth.
Alamo, Oswald, Flynn and the two Nolan brothers all won by pin in last week’s victory over Southampton. The surprise win for the Baymen came at 170 pounds, when Tom O’Shea pinned Bayron Alvarez in 5:34.
“He came up with a big pin,” Lievano said of O’Shea. “He’s a freshman and he’s one of those kids you hope gets a win. You expect wins from Cody, expect it from other guys, but I was glad to see Tom come away with a pin. He’s always at practice, working hard.
“I think Southampton put up a great fight,” he continued. “They’re a tough team, but they run into the same problems as we do, where they just don’t have the numbers to put out on the mat.”
ON THE SCHEDULE: Southampton—Wednesday, 1/15, vs. Mattituck; Friday, 1/17, at Bayport/Blue Point, 4 p.m.; Saturday, 1/18, St. John The Baptist Tournament, 9 a.m. Hampton Bays—Tuesday, 1/14, vs. Bayport/Blue Point; Friday, 1/17, vs. Babylon, 6 p.m.; Saturday, 1/18, St. John The Baptist Tournament, 9 a.m.