Lynbrook wrestlers have had a knack in recent years of peaking at just the right time. This season is no exception.
After some early season hiccups dealing with injuries and a significant roster turnover, the Owls turned a corner in mid-December with a promising third-place finish at an annual tournament at South Side.
Since then, the team has been on a roll, returning to mostly full health and triumphing over four of their division rivals before falling to North Shore in a meet three weeks ago to determine the 3B conference champion. But a second-place finish in a competitive conference is an accomplishment that coach Rich Renz is proud to highlight.
“We always peak at the right time at the end of the season. We’ve done that for about the last 10 years,” said Renz, who added with a laugh: “Whatever I’m doing, I guessing it’s working.”
Their late season ascent continued last weekend at the country qualifier tournament hosted by Bellmore-JFK. With 18 athletes competing from Lynbrook, half of them qualified for the county championships next weekend, two of whom were crowned champion in their weight class in addition to three other finalists.
It was a strong finish to the two-day tournament after what Renz said was a slow start on Friday. The next day, “We started kicking it into gear,” he said. “We really wrestled well. The kids came through and were unbelievable. They exceeded my expectations by a mile.”
Senior Henry Quilca was champion in the 182-pound weight class, and junior Jessie Singh took the top spot at 195. Finalists included seniors Johnny Dibenedetto (160), Jordan Camilo (152) and Tyler Heaney (145) Dibenedetto’s finish was particularly thrilling, Renz said, considering the senior suffered an eye injury in his quarterfinal match on Friday night.
While landing a successful move in that match, Renz said, Dibenedetto’s eye collided with his opponent’s forehead. “His eye blew up to the point where it was completely shut,” said Renz, who fortunately had a face mask handy for his wrestler.
Despite the injury, DiBenedetto persisted. advancing to the finals and only losing that match by a single point. “He’s so tough,” Renz said. “His eye was almost completely shut, and it was really difficult to see and wrestle. Most wrestlers would probably just pack it in.”
The coach added, “He’s going to turn some heads in the counties.”
Also suiting up for next weekend’s county championships will be senior Justin Weinberger, sophomore David Vivar, junior Sean Curley and senior Jesse Candel.
The amount of underclassmen who qualified was particularly pleasing for Renz. “It builds their confidence and motivates them to work even harder,” he said.
The county championships take place this Saturday and Sunday at LIU Post University in Brookville. The top performers in that tournament will compete in the state championships at the Times Union Center in Albany on Feb. 22-23.