Baldwin’s Kwasi Bonsu entered his senior year not only trying to match last season’s incredible wrestling accomplishments, but top them.
So far, he’s on the right path.
Bonsu, who enjoyed a dominant junior campaign that saw him capture the Nassau County Division 1 title at 189 pounds and earn both the Ted Petersen Champion of Champions and Gary Ventimiglia Most Outstanding Wrestler awards, wants to be a factor at this season’s state tournament Feb. 25-26 at Albany’s MVP Arena.
“Winning the state championship is the only thing that’s going to fully satisfy me,” said Bonsu, who pinned his first three opponents in last Saturday’s qualifying tournament hosted by Kennedy before defeating Cooper LaRock of Herricks in the final by major decision, 11-2. “That’s my mission and I feel confident,” he said.
Bonsu, who split four matches at the state tournament last February, is one of 11 Bruins headed to this weekend’s county tournament at Hofstra. He’s ranked No. 1 in his weight class and it would be a stunner if he’s not part of Sunday’s Parade of Champions at 4 p.m. leading up to the finals.
“We went from four county qualifiers to 11,” Bonsu said. “I’m so proud of my teammates.”
In addition to Bonsu, Baldwin had three other qualifier finalists. junior Rodney Mills was runner-up at 215, junior John Wornian was runner-up at 152, and senior Jayson Rivera reached the title bout at 172 before taking a forfeit.
“Jayson has been battling a recurring injury and as soon as I knew he was going to be seeded for counties, we held him out of the finals,” Baldwin coach Jim Murphy said of Rivera, who won a 10-4 decision over teammate Paul Clement Jr. (third place) in the quarterfinals and pinned Roslyn’s Ryan Rosenberg in the semis in 60 seconds. “We want him as healthy as possible.”
Mills handed Kennedy’s Joshua Amiel his first loss of the season in the semifinals, taking a 13-6 decision. Mills built a 6-1 lead after the first period and never looked back. He fell to MacArthur’s Benjamin Velasquez in the finals, 5-2, and will aim for a deep run in the county tournament and a top three finish which would qualify him for states.
“Rodney has benefitted from rolling around with Kwasi every day at practice,” Murphy said. “Hopefully he can get a rematch with Velasquez at the county tournament.”
Wornian recorded three pins en route to the title bout where he was pinned by MacArthur standout Paul Lichter.
Freshman Devonte Young (126) won four matches at the qualifier and reached the semifinals. “He was a soccer kid a few years ago and he’s been wrestling great,” Murphy said.
Another freshman, Frantz Byron, is headed to the county meet at 132 after a couple of clutch wins.
“Our lightweights were all young and held their own,” Murphy said.
Senior Jaylen Phillips (285) was another semifinalist last Saturday. “He wasn’t sure he was going to come back this season and now he’s going to the county tournament,” Murphy said. “It’s great to see.”