A year ago, a team from Long Island captured the title at the Waterway Duals in Pennsylvania. On Saturday, Long Island was again well represented at the 2013 version of the tournament, as 631 Elite grabbed third place in the 26-team field.
“This is a great event,” said John Passaro, who was an assistant for the team. “There are quality matches all over the place. You go to tournaments like these to be exposed to great competition and to see what you need to work on. This time of the year, every match is important. September and October are about preparing for states and nationals in February and March. The tremendous competition at Waterway Duals definitely helps to do that.”
631 Elite began with a bye and then had a meeting with Malvern in a rematch of last year’s Waterway Duals finals. Things didn’t get off to an ideal start.
“Momentum wasn’t going our way at first – it was a little bit scary,” Passaro said. “We got pinned in the first match and then Vito [Arujau] was thrown to his back right away at 113 [pounds]. We could have been down 12-0. But Vito fought off his back and came back and showed tremendous heart. He not only won the match with a pin, but he turned around the whole dual.”
Arujau’s fall knotted the score at 6 and the Long Islanders took over from there, with Nick Piccininni (120) and Travis Passaro (126) giving the squad the lead for good with back-to-back triumphs. In the end, 631 Elite won 12 of the 14 bouts in a 52-9 result.
Next up was another Empire State group – Journeymen, which had notched victories in the first two rounds. In the quarterfinal showdown, 631 came out on top 39-15 behind bonus point wins by Arujau, Piccininni, Jimmy Leach (145), Steve Schneider (170), Nick Weber (195) and Peter Strassfield (heavyweight). According to Passaro, one of the most exciting contests was at 132 where Journeymen All-American Kevin Jack (an Eastern States champion for Danbury, CT) edged NHSCA Freshman National Champion Chris Mauriello, 3-2.
In the semifinals, 631 met Bison Legend, another Pennsylvania squad. It was close early, with Arujau and Piccininni giving the team a 7-3 advantage after the first three weights. However, the Keystone State squad then took control, ending with a 37-10 victory. (Also coming out on top for the Long Island group was Mepham state champion Louis Hernandez, who had an 11-5 decision at 152).
“Bison came in with a stacked lineup – Fargo All-Americans and quality guys up and down the lineup,” Passaro said. “They were accomplished, hungry and in shape. There were a bunch of close matches that could have gone either way and we lost all of them. But that’s the exact reason to wrestle there. We got humbled a little bit, but we know what we need to work on. You want to wrestle those elite kids.”
631 rebounded well, finishing the day on a high note in the third place contest with a 49-12 win over Defiant. The Long Island wrestlers registered nine wins in the 14 matches, including pins by Leach, Hernandez and Weber.
“The team wrestled really well in the third place match,” Passaro said. “These kids have been doing this long enough to know you only remember your last match on the ride home. They wanted to have a good ride home and they did.”
Going unbeaten for 631 were Vito Arujau, Nick Piccininni and Louis Hernandez. Meanwhile, Travis Passaro, Jimmy Leach, Greg Cherry, Steven Schneider and Nick Weber all compiled 3-1 records. (The full roster of the bronze medal team is listed at the end of the article).
While 631 Elite earned third with a 3-1 record, another New York squad also registered a 3-1 mark on Saturday. Team Long Island opened against Contender in a close match that finished deadlocked at 30. After the tiebreaking criteria were applied, Contender was declared the winner, sending Team Long Island out of the placement bracket. (According to Passaro, both teams had two falls during the dual, but a forfeit by Long Island was counted as a fall and Contender moved forward on the ‘most pins’ criterion).
The team bounced back strong, outscoring its opponents 164-18 to win the last three duals in commanding fashion. Leading the way were undefeated wrestlers James Szymanski (120), Jack Taddeo (132), Sean O’Hagan (138), Ed Ramirez (145) and Gino Titone (152).
“Being in that tournament, in that environment will only help everyone’s development,” Passaro said. “It was tough to lose on the tiebreakers like that, but the positive way to look at it is that the team had three matches where they did extremely well afterwards.”
Also doing extremely well were a number of other wrestlers. For Journeymen, Kevin Jack, Brett Perry (182) and Youssif Hemida (220) collected four victories apiece, according to the online results.
That wasn’t all for New York wrestling. Iowa Style also took the mat on Saturday, nabbing a victory over fellow Empire State grapplers from Beat the Streets Red.
Beat the Streets brought two teams to the event and the Blue squad notched a 2-2 record with wins over two Pennsylvania foes – 36-16 over Turks Head and 46-21 against MWA. State champion Adis Radoncic picked up three wins, as did Saidyokub Kahramonov at 145 and Miguel Perez at 220.
One additional standout showing from New York at the event was that of Hilton state champion Yianni Diakomihalis. The Section 5 star went 4-0 at 106 pounds for the first place team (Griffin Select, Pennsylvania), with three victories by bonus points.
Passaro mentioned a number of individuals who coached and/or contributed heavily to the success of the Long Island teams, including Mike Patrovich, Ed Ramirez, Matt DeVincenzo, Nick Mauriello, Vougar Oroudjov, Les Ware and Lance Banfi.
631 Elite – Third Place Roster
106 Matteo DeVincenzo
113 Vito Arujau
120 Nick Piccininni
126 Travis Passaro
132 Chris Mauriello
138 Evan Meyer
145 Jimmy Leach
152 Louis Hernandez
160 Greg Cherry
170 Steve Schneider
182 Dom Pirraglia
195 Nick Weber
220 Rafal Rokosz
Hwt Peter Stassfield