Senior wrestler Bill Rynne battled his way to all-county status in the Division I Nassau County Wrestling Championships held last Saturday and Sunday at Hofstra University's Mack Arena.
In so doing, Rynne became the 85th Highlander grappler to win all-county honors since the inception of the Herricks wrestling program back in 1958.
This tournament is a particularly grueling affair with representatives from six Division I qualifying tournaments held the week before feeding into 26-man brackets. Wrestlers and coaches arrive on site by 7 a.m. each day for weigh-ins, and competition on six mats continues well into both nights. This is no place for the faint of heart. Just qualifying to be here is a challenging struggle. To place here becomes a monumental task.
Rynne completed his season with 32 wins, 23 of them by pins.
"He had 23 career varsity wins coming into this season," coach Cliff Forziat noted. "Middle school coach Nick Castellano, and coaching interns Clint Bodo and Eric Goldberg worked hard with him all season. Their combined efforts really paid off."
Altogether the Highlander big men consisting of Rynne, Anthony Rosa, Will Dowd, Mike Lopez and Solomon "S.I." Aziz accumulated 103 individual victories.
On Saturday, Dowd avenged a qualifying tournament loss to Syosset's John Tsiolis with a third-period pin before running into top-seeded Andrew Cole of Uniondale, the eventual county champion.
Junior Mike Vespe came out strong building up a 9-0 lead before pinning Mike Vera of Island Trees in the 145 pound class.
"Mike has been a solid contributor all along, and he is developing a more up-tempo style that can get him to the next level," Forziat said.
Vespe finished his year with 31 wins, 14 pins, a technical fall and three major decisions.
Meanwhile, Castellano and his assistant, Leo Kouroupos, opened up the Soaring Eagles middle school wrestling season against Garden City.
Each team won nine individual bouts in a spirited tussle held in the Muller Arena.
Brendan McCauley (7) led off with a 21-6 technical fall victory. He was followed by Stephen Woska's (8) third period pin. Matthew Mach (8) added a 9-5 decision. Vikrant Singh (8) followed with a 15-5 major decision. Andrew Chu (8) won by a major decision 12-1. Dylan Goldberg (8) and Anuj Sharma (7) won by decisions 8-2 and 10-5 respectively, and both Ricky Marchelos (8) and Sean Park (7) won by pins.
The Soaring Eagles came out aggressively, a good sign, scoring 19 takedowns, which according to Forziat, is probably the most significant statistic.
"If you can take your man down, you can win, you can be a champion," he said.
Aside from the two points that you score, your takedowns set the tone. It sends your opponent and everybody who is watching the message that you are not afraid to go after him, a key element of success in combative contact sport competition."
This year's annual wrestling awards dinner for high school and middle school team members, families and friends will be held on Tuesday, April 17.
This long-standing 36-year old jacket-and-tie affair has been a cut above. Further details will be forthcoming.