Hampton Bays wrestler Cody Nolan could almost taste his first Suffolk County Division II championship at the start of the season. After a commendable performance at last year’s state meet, Nolan was a favorite to win a county title and get back to Albany during his senior year.
He went 33-2 in his final season at Hampton Bays, and had never lost a Division II match at 160 pounds.
That was until Saturday night.
Nolan was pinned in 5:44 by returning Suffolk champion Ryan Woodward of Port Jefferson at the county championships at Center Moriches High School. It’s the third consecutive season Nolan has placed second at counties.
Hampton Bays head coach Rafael Lievano said he could not believe the outcome, explaining that Nolan had defeated Woodward earlier this season.
“Disbelief? I don’t know, shock?” Lievano said, when asked on his thoughts of the match. “[Nolan] didn’t wrestle the way he’s wrestled all year long. He was like a different kid on the mat. I don’t even know how to explain it. I was just shocked that wasn’t the kid who wrestled all of those matches.”
Nolan took a 2-1 lead in the second period, but Woodward was able to take down Nolan with about 15 seconds remaining in the frame to take a 3-2 advantage. Nolan was about to escape for a point to tie things up at 3-3 until Woodward was saved by the buzzer at the end of the period.
Woodward escaped Nolan’s grasp to start the third and final period to go up 4-2, then Nolan got caught on a shot late in the period and Woodward was able to pin him with 16 seconds remaining in the match to become county champion.
Hampton Bays was able to place two other wrestlers—sophomore Lucas Kraus took second at 106 pounds while junior captain Ralph Oswald placed fourth at 138 pounds. Kraus had to face Port Jefferson’s Matteo DeVincenzo, a state finalist last season, in the county final. DeVincenzo went on the offensive right away and won by technical fall (15-0) with 11 seconds remaining in the first period.
Kraus was well aware of DeVincenzo’s achievements coming into the finals. He placed second upstate last season and also finished second at Eastern States, which some consider tougher than the state tournament.
Kraus said he did his best to not get pinned. “He’s incredible,” he said of DeVincenzo. “That kid is probably going to win states this year. His quickness and strength are what really make him tough to wrestle.
“You’ve got to believe that you’re going to get to the finals, but I knew that I was going to have to face him if I got there, so I knew what I was in for,” Kraus added.
Oswald was in an exiting match for third and fourth place against Mattituck’s Joe Bartolotto, who had pinned him in 5:17 in the quarterfinals. Oswald jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first period and nearly pinned Bartolotto with a cradle. But Oswald rode up to high on Bartolotto, who reversed the cradle and scored five points before the end of the period.
Oswald was ahead 8-5 when Bartolotto scored more near-fall points to take a 10-8. Oswald was able to tie the match on a reversal, sending the match into overtime, where Bartolotto was able to win by pin, 26 seconds into the extra time.
“Ralph wrestled real tough, but it doesn’t need to be that exciting,” Lievano said. “He needs a little more experience just to pull out those kind of wins. He needs more mat time.”
Lievano would have liked to have seen senior Anthony Mora at the podium at the end of the night. Mora pinned the fourth seed in the 113-pound bracket, Tim Phelan of Bayport/Blue Point, in 1:24 to reach the semifinals against Babylon’s Dom Mazzella, who defeated Mora in a 17-4 major decision. Mora went to wrestlebacks where he faced Port Jefferson’s John Giannusa. Lievano thought Mora had some terrible calls go against him, and he wound up losing 13-6.
“One bad call and you’re out of the tournament,” Lievano said. “He did a great job though. As a senior he had high hopes, but he wrestled the number one kid and gave it 110 percent.”
Mattituck, as it has throughout this season, dominated on Saturday and took home the Division II Championship, scoring 333.5 points. Port Jefferson was second with 200.5 points. Hampton Bays placed seventh out of nine teams with 55 points.
First-year wrestler Max Gembenski will be graduating along with Mora and Nolan. With Kraus and Oswald returning next season, the Baymen have a core they can work with, though it’s going to take some time for Lievano to get over the loss of Nolan and the overall effort the team put forth last weekend.
“You have to capitalize on opportunities while they’re in front of you because you never know how next year is going to turn out,” Lievano said. “It was a tough tournament today, all the way through. I wish it would have ended on a better note, but it didn’t. That’s the way it goes. Only one guy can get his hand raised at the end … it wasn’t us today.”