The Southampton wrestling team wrapped up a busy week of League VII dual meets and now sets its sights on the upcoming Division II county tournament.
The Mariners finished with a 2-6 record in League VII, beating Smithtown Christian 36-22 on January 27, before losing 66-18 at Center Moriches on January 29 and 63-12 to Port Jefferson on January 31.
While Southampton’s league dual meet record wasn’t too impressive, the Mariners will have a strong presence at counties thanks to several talented standouts who are in the running not only to earn All-County honors but to win county titles as well.
Mitchell Pena (120 pounds) and Rafal Rokosz (220) finished with unblemished records in League VII and are both ranked first in their weight class going into the county tournament. Peter Strassfield (285) is ranked second behind Port Jefferson’s Kyle Fiske. Both Rokosz and Strassfield are defending county champs and will be looking for another trip to the Division II state tournament.
Strassfield’s road back to states might be a bit tougher, as Fiske is a worthy opponent. Strassfield lost in double-overtime to Fiske on Friday, with the deciding point coming when Strassfield was called for a clasp. Neither wrestler scored a takedown in the match, with their points coming off escapes.
“If Peter can score the first takedown, the match is over,” Southampton head coach Lester Ware said. “Because Fiske can’t hold [Peter] or take him down or turn him.”
The county final will come down to another match between Fiske and Strassfield, barring what would be a major upset, and only the winner will advance to states. While there is a “wild-card” system that allows runner-up finishers to get to states, Ware explained that neither Fiske nor Strassfield—whoever finishes second—would earn enough wild-card points to get there as the formula used to determine those points takes into account the strength of the section a wrestler competes in, and Section XI (Suffolk County) is considered weaker than several others in the state this year.
“The sad part is that one of those two kids is not going to states,” Ware said. “They’re both state-level kids. Whoever wins that match in counties is going to take second or third in the state.”
Strassfield did not face Fiske at counties last year, as runner-up Kevin Giron of Hampton Bays, now graduated, had beaten Fiske in the semis.
Strassfield did not see any mat time against either Smithtown Christian or Center Moriches, as both teams chose to forfeit to him.
Rokosz, who is also a defending county champ, received forfeits against Smithtown Christian and Port Jeff, and pinned Brandan Simone of Center Moriches in 5:11. Rokosz will be the top seed and the heavy favorite to defend his county title.
Pena will also be the top seed in his weight class. He received a forfeit against Smithtown Christian and pinned Sterling Nenninger of Port Jeff in 1:18. He had to battle a little harder to get past Jonas Marrello of Center Moriches in a 6-2 decision.
Other highlights in the final league matches included Alejandro Reyes beating Cameron Hainwright of Center Moriches in a 6-5 decision, and Sam Osbourne (195) pinning Chris Olynik of Smithtown Christian in 4:45.
Aside from Strassfield, Rokosz and Pena, several other Mariners have a chance to earn All-County honors by placing in the top four in their weight class. Thomas Roughan (182) is ranked in the top four in his weight class, and Ware said he certainly has enough talent to win.
“He can beat every kid in the weight,” Ware said. “He just has to be really focused. There’s no kid who can stop Thomas’s stuff if Thomas wrestles smart.”
Ware added that Ian Saw-Burke (160) has an outside chance at becoming All-County, and said that Chris Osufsen (126) might be able to wrestle at counties after missing the past few weeks due to a broken collarbone. Osufsen was having a good season before the injury, and could surprise people if he’s able to wrestle. Ware added that Reyes (132) is “not a kid I would count out.”
In fact, Ware said that no one can truly be counted out when the counties start, as the tournament seems to live by a different set of rules than the rest of the season.
“The fun part of tournament time is that somebody always shows up and you say, that kid came out of nowhere,” Ware said. “But really, they’ve been putting it together and just waiting for the tournament.
“There are two seasons,” Ware continued. “The season that takes up a lot of time, and then there’s the tournament.”
The Suffolk County Division II tournament will kick off on Friday, February 14, at Hofstra University and will continue back at Hofstra on Sunday, February 16.