Though Lynbrook’s wrestling season has been marked by meaningful strides, a relentless rash of injuries has tested the Owls’ patience.
At last Saturday’s Nassau qualifier at Uniondale, senior Ralph Caputo, no stranger to the Owls’ injured list, acted as though he’d reached his limit, pinning his three opponents in successively shorter times to win the tournament’s 215-pound title and lead a Lynbrook charge that saw six Owls qualify for county.
Fellow Owls captain Dylan Vanegas went 3-1 with a pair of pins to finish runner-up at the qualifying tournament. The All-County junior – ranked No. 2 at 138 in the latest Nassau rankings – will join the third-ranked Caputo at the Nassau Division 1 Wrestling Championships at Hofstra University this weekend, along with teammates Shawn Healy (senior), Immanuel Bunce (freshman), Elias Vanegas (sophomore) and Liam Fitzgerald (senior).
Aside from first-time county qualifiers Bunce and Elias Vanegas, who finished fourth and fifth in the tournament at 215 and 138, respectively, the slate returns to Hofstra for a second straight season.
“At the end of the season, when it’s crunch time and people are sick or hurt, you have to turn it up another notch, and that’s what we did,” said coach Rich Renz, whose club notched its third straight .500-or-better campaign, going 6-2 in dual meets to finish third in Nassau Conference 1B.
“We basically followed the same format as last year,” Renz added. “We ended up doing very well at the end of the season. And that’s important for a positive mindset going into the qualifiers and to county, even though we had some more setbacks recently.”
Conspicuously absent from the Owls’ county contingent will be 215-pound former qualifier Jesse Jean, whose standout senior campaign was cut short due to a high fever days before the qualifying tournament. Jean finished the season 12-6 overall and was the 189-pound champion at the Cliff Clark Duals Dec. 10.
“Jesse improved so much this year,” Renz said. “He’s one of our best and we missed him this weekend, but the health and safety of our wrestlers are priorities.”
At several points this season Caputo’s health has been an issue. Not this past Saturday. After winning by fall in 3:13 and 1:46 in his first two bouts respectively, Caputo pinned Wantagh’s Andrew Perez in 1:37 to win the final.
“Ralph has been wrestling really well,” Renz said of the of the third-year varsity starter who went 6-1 in dual meet matches with five pins after coming off the injured list in January. “He’s been taking it one match at a time, and he looks ready now to give it his best shot at county.”
Vanegas – who also finished runner-up at the Dave Ironman Invitational at Monsignor Farrell Jan. 7, adding the trophy to three first-place statues from tournaments earlier this winter – also battled injury to finish 21-5 overall.
“This has been probably one of the best all-around efforts from the entire team that I’ve seen, especially at this last tournament,” Renz said. “They don’t quit.”
Sophomore Zachary Tinyes (102 pounds) and freshman Tony Lazri (215) earned possible wildcard spots at county for Lynbrook with sixth-place finishes in the qualifier.