County qualifiers return to lead South Side/East Rockaway


The South Side/East Rockaway wrestling team surprised many – including their own coach – by sending seven grapplers to the Nassau Division 1 tournament last winter. Half of them are back for another go and the team overall could again turn heads if some highly touted freshman can develop quicker than expected.

The youthful roster has yet to translate into any team victories for the Cyclones, who are winless in one-on-one duals in the early going, but the individual victories during those meets are coming from those who could be among the favorites in February’s county qualifier.

Coach Mike Robinson said the main focus until then is to get the returnees ready for that event and hope that some of the newcomers can begin to develop a solid foundation for the future.

“Most of the team is made up of freshmen,” Robinson said. “We’re missing a few guys, but the guys that we have are going to do well [and] we’re going to get them ready for the qualifier. That’s our outlook. We’re looking for those guys to progress to get to that level.”

Junior Joe Souto was a finalist in last year’s county qualifier and his success has carried over while competing mostly at the 126-pound level. He won his first four matches at the Sprig Gardner Tournament from Dec. 9-10 before dropping a tough 5-4 decision in the final and placed third at the Frank Giampaolo Cyclone Tournament at South Side a week later while dominating his dual matches.

“He’s doing an outstanding job and progressing very nicely,” Robinson said. 

Junior Lucas Cortarzar (138) had three straight pinfalls in under three minutes at the Sprig Gardner before finishing third and has two pinfalls and two decision wins in four dual matches. Cortarzar, who was fourth in the county qualifier, is expected to compete in the 132-pound weight class later this season.

“Lucas is coming along,” Robinson said. “He’s one of the more technical wrestlers on the team. He’s a blue-collar kid and I’m looking forward to him making the counties and doing well.”

Robinson said that Liam Hosey (118) is another tough competitor who he hopes will stay healthy after being beset by injuries that past two seasons and that fellow senior Logan Kelly (160) is a coachable wrestler who is poised for a strong finish. 

Junior Nate Modico (132), who had some clutch wins for the Cyclones last year, finished fifth at the Sprig Gardner. Robinson lauded the improvement of junior Brendan Russell (152), who had a pinfall win against Oceanside on Dec. 7 and expressed excitement for the return of junior Evan Russell (172) from injury.

“Evan is a big, strong kid and we’re looking forward to him coming back and being successful at the end of the season,” he said.

Some of the up-and-coming freshmen on the team include Lachlan Tarpey (102), Gavin McDaid (126) and Lukas Papadopulos (145).

“[They’re} wrestling hard, getting better and I’m looking for some great things out of them,” Robinson said.