It was supposed to be his year.
East Hampton senior Lucas Escobar, in his final trip to the Suffolk County Division I wrestling tournament this past weekend at Hofstra University, had his best shot ever at finishing in the top six in his weight class and earning All-County honors. But, as is proved over and over again in the postseason—particularly in intensely competitive Suffolk County—upsets are the norm at this time of year.
Escobar (120 pounds) found that out the hard way, losing 5-3 to Darius Caporaso of Smithtown East in the first round of wrestlebacks to put a premature end to his tournament and career.
Escobar was having a banner season for the Bonackers, and was hoping to become the program’s first county place-winner since 2003. Escobar opened the tournament with a 7-0 win over Cody Weiss of Riverhead, setting up a showdown with two-time defending state champion Nick Piccininni of Ward Melville. Piccininni, a junior, is one of the most dominant wrestlers in Long Island history. He had won 131 matches in a row, second all time in Long Island history, and is 41-0 this season. He beat Escobar in a 13-3 major decision on his way to winning his fourth straight county crown.
Because Piccininni went on to win his next match, Escobar “piggy-backed” his way into the wrestlebacks, and East Hampton head coach Steve Tseperkas said he felt good about Escobar’s chances to fight his way back for a county place-winning finish. If Escobar had beaten Caporaso, he would have faced Jack Scurti of Half Hollow Hills East, whom he had beaten during the regular season, and a win over Scurti would have given Escobar All-County status. Thinking a little too much about that possibility, Tseperkas said, might have been Escobar’s downfall going into the match with Caporaso.
“I feel like he was looking past him and looking to the next match,” Tseperkas said. “Out of all the kids in the bracket, [Caporaso] was the one kid we didn’t know too much about.”
Caporaso, who was making his third straight appearance in the county tournament, got on the board first by taking Escobar down with just 10 seconds left in the one-minute first period.
Escobar had the choice to choose his starting position for the second period, and Tseperkas said he wanted Escobar to take bottom, confident he could get out and score an escape to cut the match to 2-1. But Escobar deferred instead, and Caporaso chose bottom. He got out, going up 3-0, and then took Escobar down again to go up 5-0. Escobar got out before the second period ended, making it 5-1. To start the third period, Tseperkas again urged Escboar to take the bottom position, hoping he could get out or even get a reversal. Escobar had proven all year that he is strong on bottom and had showed it even in the quarterfinal loss to Piccininni, who repeatedly let Escobar out to get back to a neutral position because he was unable to turn Escobar for back points. But Escobar chose neutral instead, much to Tseperkas’s dismay.
“I knew it was over at that point,” Tseperkas said. “When he didn’t have the confidence to take bottom.”
Escobar did finally score a takedown, but it was near the end of the third period, and he didn’t have enough time to turn Caporaso for the back points that would have been necessary to win the match.
Escobar was visibly upset after the match, lying on the mat for a few seconds with his hands over his face before getting up to shake Caporaso’s hand. Tseperkas said he waited until the bus ride home to go over the match with Escobar.
“I told him, this is a tough way to go out, but if you continue to wrestle in college, then it doesn’t end here,” he said.
Escobar, a strong student who currently sits fourth in his class and would like to become a doctor, is going to either Brown University or Johns Hopkins next year. Tseperkas said that while a rigorous academic schedule would probably prevent Escobar from having a full four-year wrestling career in college, Escobar is hoping to join the wrestling team at either school for at least his freshman year.
Despite the disappointing finish, Escobar still had one of the best seasons in recent memory for East Hampton wrestling. He went 34-5, with his only losses coming against Piccininni (twice) and third-place finisher James Szymanski of Shoreham/Wading River (twice), as well as Caporaso. All three finished in the top six in the county this year. At one point at the end of the season, Escobar was ranked sixth in his weight class in the county.
Bonackers Luciano Escobar and Richie Browne also qualified for the county tournament, but their runs were short, as both lost in the first round. Escobar, a 160-pound junior, was pinned by Ray Gerena of William Floyd in 3:38. Gerena went on to finish third in the county. Browne, a 285-pound senior, lost 9-3 to Tahj Wiggan of Central Islip. Browne and Lucas Escobar were the only seniors on the Bonac team this year.