Soon after receiving the unexpected news New York State approved high-risk sports, including wrestling, to begin Feb. 1, Nassau County wrestling coaches sprung into action and devised a plan to align conferences based on ability rankings as opposed to school size.
Eleven teams formed Conference I, led by defending county champion MacArthur and perennial powers Wantagh, Long Beach and Massapequa, and faced 9 of 10 rivals in a condensed season with no dual meet playoffs, and no county and state tournaments.
“The kids have taken everything in stride,” Long Beach coach Ray Adams said. “They’re grateful to have gotten the opportunity to compete at all. You’d never know by the intensity of matches and practices that there’s anything different about this season.”
The Marines, who placed fifth in Nassau last winter, made the most of the February long season, going 8-1 to finish in second place. Their signature win came Feb. 15 against MacArthur, 45-27.
“We just took things one match at a time and didn’t really talk about going undefeated or anything like that,” Adams said. “The kids worked hard every day and focused on the next opponent.”
Long Beach’s roster featured a handful of seniors with aspirations of competing at the collegiate level, including state qualifiers Jeremiah Echeverria and Kevin Lopez. Echeverria won the 113-pound Nassau Division 1 championship as a junior and reached the state final. He’s a three-time All-County wrestler who bumped up two weight classes on several occasions this season (to 138) to face desired competition. He pinned MacArthur’s Paul Lichter in 1 minute, 32 seconds at 138.
Lopez, with two All-County campaigns under his belt including a third-place finish at 113 last season, competed at 126, and was also no stranger to pins. He earned pins in three straight matches between Feb. 13-17.
Echeverria, Lopez and Dylan Sofield (172) served as captains, Adams noted. Sofield was a qualifying tournament champion a year ago and also picked up a key pin in the MacArthur match.
Senior Andres Castro made the most of his rise into the starting lineup at 118 and ranked among the team leader in pins, including four straight. He sparked the Marines early in matches along with junior Mason Franklin, who won four of his first five bouts at 102, and Konner Rosensweis, a high-energy freshman who broke down each of his opponents.
Junior Wyatt Parker, who scored a huge upset win over Freeport’s Terry Ellis, competed at 138 and 145 along with sophomore Mike Berube and senior Romeo Alolor. Junior Yehuda Bitton held down the fort at 160, seniors Thomas Rooney and Peter Navarette took care of business at 189 and 220, and sophomore Ronald Washington recorded some clutch pins at 285.