Rafal Rokosz took care of business in the Suffolk Division II wrestling tournament at Center Moriches High School on Saturday night, winning his second straight county crown at 220 pounds by beating Bayport/Blue Point’s Matt Doty, 3-1.
Now, Rokosz can focus on the bigger task at hand—vying for a state championship.
The Southampton senior has a good shot at bringing home the big prize, according to head coach Lester Ware, who expects Rokosz to earn a high seed in the 220-pound bracket, based on several factors, including the fact that Rokosz is one of just two returning state competitors in the weight class from last year. The state tournament will kick off on Friday, February 28, at the Times Union Center in Albany and will conclude on Saturday, March 1.
It will be the second trip to the states for Rokosz, who went last year but failed to place after losing two matches by a total of three points. With another year of experience under his belt, however, Rokosz should be one of the front-runners in the weight class. He’s 26-2 this season, with three wins over state qualifiers, and is 75-15 overall in his high school wrestling career.
“I think he’s going to challenge for the title,” Ware said of Rokosz, who will wrestle at Duke University next year. “He’s very solid. He’s been on the honorable mention list of state rankings for Division I and II all season, and four of those kids fell off the list because they didn’t qualify for states.”
While the final score may indicate otherwise, Rokosz’s win over Doty, and return trip to states, was never in doubt. Rokosz took Doty down in the first period for a 2-0 lead, and controlled the action leading up to the takedown, taking the majority of the shots before bringing Doty to the mat. Rokosz took the bottom position to start the second period and scored an escape to go up 3-0. Doty managed to get an escape, but never seriously threatened to tie the match.
“Rafal wrestled a very tactful and sound match,” Ware said. “He never put himself in danger.”
While Rokosz’s win was a highlight for Southampton, there was plenty of heartbreak at the tournament as well. At 285 pounds, junior Peter Strassfield was upset in the semifinals, getting pinned in 1:24 by Stephen Ostrowski of Mattituck, whom Strassfield had beaten easily during the regular season. Strassfield pinned Dion Kennedy of Center Moriches in just eight seconds to take third place, but the All-County finish wasn’t much of a consolation for Strassfield, who was looking to defend his county title and get back to the state tournament.
“It was probably a one in 1,000 thing,” Ware said of Strassfield’s surprising loss to Ostrowski. “He just got out of position and sort of tripped over his own feet, and the kid fell on him and [Peter] never got off his back. It was absolutely tragic.”
Ostrowski went on to lose to Port Jefferson’s Kyle Fiske in the finals, 6-0.
Junior 120-pounder Mitchell Pena also saw his dreams of going upstate dashed, losing 6-4 in overtime in the finals to Babylon’s Brett Frole. Pena had defeated Frole during the regular season, but couldn’t get past him in a match that was hard-fought from start to finish.
Frole scored the first points with a takedown near the out of bounds area with 44 seconds left in the first period, and went up 4-0 in the second after a penalty was called on Pena and after Pena let Frole out to try to get something going. The match was cut to 4-1 when Frole was hit with a stalling penalty and, early in the third, he was given another stalling penalty to make it 4-2.
Pena scored the tying takedown with less than a minute left in the third to force overtime, and he nearly won the match with just 16 seconds left. Pena was just about to tilt Frole for back points when the referee stopped the match because he saw blood on Frole. The blood timeout saved Frole and put the match into overtime.
In the extra session, Frole shot in on Pena’s leg and caught him in an awkward position, which tweaked Pena’s knee. After taking an injury timeout, Pena got back on his feet, and with 22 seconds left, Frole was able to score the winning takedown.
“Mitchell wrestled a solid match, but a couple of times the call didn’t go his way,” Ware said. “To add the injury onto the loss, it was really tragic.”
Pena had two pins and a 6-2 win before facing Frole in the finals.
Southampton junior Thomas Roughan (182 pounds) placed fourth to give Southampton four All-County wrestlers. After getting pinned by eventual finalist Joe Peroni of Mattituck, Roughan pinned Chris Olywik of Smithtown Christian in 1:19, and then pinned David Jensen of Stony Brook in 1:37 to get into the consolation final, where he was pinned in 3:49 by Cameron Mauro of Bayport.
Ian Saw-Burke, another junior, didn’t earn All-County status but went 2-2, with two pins. Junior Chris Osufsen, who was sidelined by a broken collarbone that needed only one more week to heal, watched two opponents he had beaten during the regular season finish second and third in his weight class.
Ware said that while the losses by Pena and Strassfield were tough to take, he feels very good about next season as he will bring back a solid senior class.
“We’ve got a really strong, strong core of kids ready for next year,” he said. “I’m excited to go up to states with Rafal, but I’m conflicted on my feelings; I’m heartbroken for the kids who didn’t make it, but I’m excited for where we are and where we’re going.”