VSN to face challenges


Junior Emmanuel Gatke led the way for the Valley Stream North wrestling team at the Ralph Jansson Tournament on Dec. 21 by finishing runner-up to Seaford’s Adam Weissberg in the 132-pound weight class.

Gatke, who had two victories, including one by pin to reach the final, had a three-point lead against Weissberg but was beaten with a counter move. “He was very aggressive this weekend,” Spartans coach Tom Maddock said of Gatke, who competed in the Nassau County championship meet last winter after finishing second in the qualifier tournament. “He could have a big season if he eliminates some mistakes,” Maddock added. “He competes year-round and is dedicated to the sport. He does a good job of studying opponents.”

Behind Gatke and fellow junior Blake Benitez, who placed fourth at 160 pounds, North finished eighth in the 11-team event. Seaford won the tournament with 262.5 points, and Sayville was second. “There was some good, competitive wrestling,” Maddock said. 

The Spartans are in rebuilding mode, the coach noted, despite a roster that runs 38-deep. That’s because they graduated 11 starters from a year ago and boast a bushel of first-year varsity performers. “Most of the kids we’ve got didn’t get a lot of varsity experience last season,” Maddock said. “We have numbers, but we’re not going to throw anyone into the fire that isn’t ready. It’s a big jump from JV to varsity. We’re trying to build something.”

Being competitive in dual meets will be a challenge for North, which competes in Conference 4A along with Seaford, Island Trees, Mineola, North Shore and Roosevelt. Maddock expects to forfeit at least five of the 15 weight classes (106, 113, 145, 182, 285) and is also waiting on some young 99-pounders to develop. “It’s the most weights we’ll forfeit in quite a while,” he said. “Some of our better guys are bunched into the same weight classes and can’t be moved around.”

Benitez had a long road to haul in the Jansson tournament. He lost his opening bout but rebounded to win four straight to grab fourth place. “Blake won a lot of JV matches last year,” Maddock said. “He’s got ability. I give him credit for how well he battled after losing his first match. That’s not an easy thing to do.”

Junior John Weiss split four matches in the 170-pound division, highlighted by a pin of top-seeded Tony White from Sewanhaka West in 4:53. “John has a great attitude and works hard,” Maddock said. 

Junior Ryan Platovsky picked up a hard-fought win, and Maddock said he should hold his own at 152. Senior Tim Sarro, an All-State musician, has varsity mat experience and is North’s leading upperweight at 195.