About 50 minutes. That’s the total time future Hofstra heavyweight Michael Hughes spent on the mat this year on his way to an undefeated campaign and a state championship for Smithtown West.
That’s an average of less than a minute and a half per match (for his 34 bouts, excluding forfeits). Not too surprising since he wrestled into the second period only six times all season.
“I expected to be really dominant this year,” Hughes said. “After training with the partners my coaches brought in for me, who are bigger than me and tossed me around, it was so much easier in the matches. I went on the mat thinking there would be no fooling around. No matter who I was wrestling or how good they were, I wanted to end it as quickly as possible and show everyone I was the best.”
The best in Section 11? He demonstrated that with an exclamation point. It took him less than two and a half minutes to pin his four Suffolk tournament opponents to capture his second straight Sectional title and punch his ticket back to the Times Union Center.
“I guess I was a little surprised at how fast it was,” Hughes said. “I think I was expecting it to take a little bit longer — but not too much longer. When I got after people, they couldn’t stay with me. I went all out.”
And that’s exactly what he planned to do in his last chance in Albany as well. As a junior, he took sixth at the state tournament. In 2013, he was determined to show that he was #1 in the Empire State despite entering as the number four seed.
“I definitely couldn’t wait to go back [to the state tournament],” he said. “I lost my last two matches there as a junior. It was a tough way to finish. I knew that wasn’t who I was as a wrestler. It made me step up my training. I think taking sixth actually helped me.”
It may have done that, because the road to a title had a number of potential roadblocks, including foes such as 2012 state runner up El Shaddai Van Hoesen of Columbia and Seaford’s James O’Hagan, the only wrestler to go the full six minutes with Hughes prior to the postseason (in a 4-0 Hughes victory).
“After looking at the bracket, I knew I had the tougher half,” Hughes said. “Last year, I had four of the six placers on my side and the same thing happened this year. I knew I would have a tough match in the semis [which wound up being a 1-0 decision over O’Hagan], but I was confident about the finals. I told the coaches that when I made the finals I would pin the kid no matter what.”
His prediction came true as he earned the fall against Spencerport’s Austin Coleman in just two and a half minutes. And he didn’t just accomplish his mission to win it all. He made some history as well, becoming Smithtown West’s first-ever state champion.
“I thought it was really cool,” Hughes said. “Knowing all the good wrestlers that came from Smithtown before and watching a lot of them when I was growing up, it was great to get the title for myself and for the school.”
The victories kept coming for Hughes. He pinned Eric Chakonis in the decisive bout of the Pinning Down Autism Charity Challenge to ensure New York’s third straight dual victory over rival New Jersey. And a few weeks later, he rebounded from an early 4-1 deficit against the previously mentioned Van Hoesen with a late third period takedown to win 5-4 in the Long Island vs. Upstate Challenge, which eventually ended in a tie.
And he still wasn’t done. Hughes said he wanted to make his mark on the national level and he checked that off the list as well as he made the trip to Virginia Beach to compete at the NHSCA Senior Nationals.
“I wanted to go down and compete against the best in the country to see how I would do,” he said. “I had no clue who anyone was or how good they were. I just thought if I wrestled hard, I could compete with anyone. My goal at first was to be an All-American.”
He did more than that, going all the way to the championship contest before finishing as the runner up to Will Geary of Kansas.
“Making it to the finals was great. I couldn’t be any happier,” Hughes said. “I wish I won the last one, but second place was really great.”
It also spoke to the potential of the three-sport athlete who will fully focus on wrestling in the future after splitting his attention among football, wrestling and track in the past.
“For me, at the start of my senior year, I was trying to figure out what the best fit would be in college,” Hughes said. “I was torn between football and wrestling for a while, but in February, I decided. I realized then that I didn’t have to ask myself which one I preferred anymore, I just knew that I wanted to wrestle.”
He’ll do that for the Pride after also considering Buffalo, Bloomsburg, Ohio and Sacred Heart.
“I wanted to stay close to home,” Hughes explained. “Hofstra has a great wrestling program and I loved the coaches. They have great personalities and are motivated to push the wrestlers to be the best they can.”
Hughes looks forward to the challenge and said he may add some size as he transitions to being a heavyweight at the college level. However, he emphasized the importance of maintaining his quickness. And he expects some other things to stay the same as well.
“I like when things come down to me,” he said. “I don’t want to settle for close matches, I want to keep ending them as quickly as possible.”
Mike Hughes had a few people he wanted to thank: “I want to thank my coaches for everything they’ve done for me, especially bringing people in to work with me and spending time after practice just working on the little things that made a difference. I also want to thank all my friends and family for coming to watch me and supporting me. It was always a great feeling seeing they were there.”
**All match times taken from the NWCA High School Scorebook