Wantagh produces five county champs


A big night for Wantagh wrestling during last Sunday’s Nassau Division I championships was capped off by a historic triumph from Justin Vines.

The senior captured his third straight county title with a commanding 12-4 win against Freeport’s Lee Mauras in the 132-pound finals at Hofstra’s Mack Sports Complex. Vines, who will head to Albany looking for a second straight state crown, was the last of five Warriors to take home a county championship.

“The kids did great,” seventh-year Wantagh coach Paul Gillespie said. “There was some hard battles, but they came through.”

Wantagh captured its seventh team title in eight years on the big stage at Hofstra with 291 points to finish 36.5 points ahead of second-place Massapequa. Joining Vines at the top of the podium for the Warriors were James Langan (182), Matt Rogers (170), Jonathan Loew (195) and Josiah Encarnacion (106.)

“It’s surreal,” Rogers said moments after a 14-4 win against Sewanhaka East’s Dominic Palma. “To be only a sophomore and win a county title is a great feeling.”

Langan was victorious in one of the night’s more dramatic bouts with a 13-11 overtime win against Kennedy’s Jack Krug. The senior rallied from a five-point second period deficit to go up by one late, before Krug pulled out an escape with 32 seconds left to force overtime. In the extra session, Langan fought off a low leg shot and clinched the title with a two-point takedown bringing the many Wantagh fans in attendance to their feet.

“I knew I had the technique to come back so I stayed calm,” Langan said. “I wanted this title so badly.”

Loew also finished his heralded Nassau County wrestling career on a high note with a pin of Massapequa’a Marco Musso for his second straight title. The Cornell-bound senior said preparation from battling teammates Joe Conklin, Rogers and Langan every day in practice set the stage for the county championship run and a chance to bring home a state title in two weeks.

“We all wrestle together in practice and kill each other so I felt confident in my ability,” said Loew, who finished third in the state’s last winter. “It is nice to finish with another county championship, but it isn’t over yet.”

Encarnacion was matched in the 106-pound county final against his training partner at Vougar’s Honor’s Wrestling, Jake Schneider of MacArthur. The Wantagh sophomore pulled off a convincing 11-3 win in the neighborhood battle making the hard work and sacrifice worth it.

“It’s the greatest feeling ever,” said Encarnacion, who placed sixth in the state as a freshman.  “I work so hard every day.”

Wantagh’s five county champions will look to make more waves at the New York State Championships set for Feb. 23-24 at the Times-Union Center in Albany. The Warriors had six other All-County performers at Hofstra including Aiden Araoz (113, second place), Benny Rogers (99, fourth), Christian Encarnacion (120, fourth), CJ Ahearn (145, sixth) and Joe Russo (138, sixth.)