The MacArthur wrestling team seized the moment with its back against the wall to bring home the program’s first county dual meet title in over a decade.
The Generals dropped the first three matches of the Nassau County Division I finals at Clarke High School to Massapequa before rallying for a 46-24 win Jan. 25 against the defending champions. The Massapequa comeback was preceded by a 28-27 semifinal win against Manhasset where MacArthur won eight of 10 bouts down the stretch after falling behind 18-9.
"We have a gritty team that believes in themselves," said 11th-year MacArthur head coach Rob Paletta. "The kids showed some perseverance."
MacArthur's first county crown since 2009 earned the team a shot to compete in the state championships at SRC Arena in Syracuse last Saturday. The Generals split two matches on the stage and fell just short of reaching the semifinals.
Junior Matt Huggard and sophomore Killian Foy turned around MacArthur’s fortunes in the finals with back-to-back pins at 106 and 113 pounds, respectively. After Massapequa won the next two bouts, MacArthur dominated the remainder of the match winning six of eight down the stretch. The dominating close including pins by Thomas Szilagyi (152) and John Hegner along with wins by Jake Schneider (132), Vincenzo Montefusco (138), (145) Joseph Apuzzo (145), Dylan Young (170) and Benjamin Velasquez (195).
Eighth-grader Carmine Dinovi was instrumental in changing momentum in the semifinals with his come-from-behind 7-6 win against Harry Tzavelis after trailing 4-0. Dinovi’s triumph, which avoided a deeper hole after Manhasset won the first three bouts, sparked the Generals the rest of the way and proved crucial in a match ultimately decided by a single point.
“That was the turning point,” Paletta said of Dinovi’s win. “He showed a lot of guts.”
At the state duals, MacArthur rebounded from a 49-18 loss to Westchester County power Fox Lane High School with another come-from-behind 34-32 victory against Niagara-Wheatfield. Freshman Ben Velasquez recorded the decisive win with a dominating 11-1 decision against Casey Robinson at 195 pounds to give the Generals a late 34-30 lead.
After conquering a team crown MacArthur will now eye some individual titles at the Nassau County championships scheduled for Feb. 15-16 at Farmingdale State College. The Generals will look to send as many wrestlers as possible to the top of the podium to qualify for the New York State Championships on Feb. 28-29 at the Times Union Center in Albany.
While individual accomplishments await, Paletta said the dual title will garner a lifetime of memories for the 2019-20 team. He said the overnight Syracuse trip allowed the team to bond off the mat with that chemistry hopefully fueling more success in February.
“This is what we needed,” said Paletta of the upstate New York trip following a triumphant title the weekend before. “We needed to come together as a team to get this done.”