BY GREGG SARRA AND ANDY SLAWSON
There have been 43 years of the New York State High School Wrestling Championships. And there are so many Long Island athletes that have grabbed the spotlight and etched their names in the annals of the sport's history. Here is a collection of the state champions and some of the brightest moments for Long Islanders from each year of the state wrestling tournament.
1963: First year of the tournament. Held at Cornell University. Section VIII-Nassau County dominates the tournament with five champions. Pete Henning of Wantagh wins the 103 pound weight class becoming the first state champion in history.
1965: Section IV (Binghamton-Elmira area) had seven champions to win the sectional team title. Little Sidney High School had four finalists and including two champions. Lindenhurst's Ken Melchior won his second straight title.
1966: The tournament returned to Whitman High School. It would be the last time in 40 years Long Island hosted the tournament. Nassau edged Section IV for the team title, 91-87.
1967: Nassau again edges Section IV for team honors, 67-57.
1968: Nassau and Section IV finish 1-2 in the team race for the third straight year. Brentwood's Carl Adams won the 154-pound title. He would later win two NCAA titles at Iowa State.
1969: Bill Proios of Port Jefferson took second in the Suffolk tournament at 157 pounds, but got the chance to go to the state tournament when Sayville's Jim Cisek opted to go to his sister's wedding instead of the state tournament. Proios made the most his of his opportunity as he won the state title. Section IV wins its second team title. Nassau finishes lower than second for the first time in the tournament's seven years.
1970: Section III (Syracuse) wins its first team title, edging Nassau. Jack Spates of Smithtown wins the 107 pound title. Smith is the current head coach at the University of Oklahoma.
1971: Suffolk wins its first sectional team title as Brentwood places six wrestlers in the top four. The Indians advance four boys to the finals including three champions: Ivan Gonzales (112), Dave Larrache (119), and Bob Antonacci (126).
1972: Nassau wins its first team title in four years as Richard Applebaum (Lawrence) and Steve Hunte (Bellmore JFK) lead Nassau to an 83.5-82 win over Section V (Rochester). Huntington coach Lou Giani makes his debut at the tournament.
1973: Suffolk loses the team title by 6.5 points to Section III, but Huntington sends three boys to the finals including champions Lou Giani Jr. (155 pounds) and Charlie Gadson (167). The Blue Devils won the school team title.
1974: Suffolk wins the team title by 1.5 points (98.5-97) over Section V. Jeff Thomas of Huntington wins Suffolk's only title. The tournament is held in Syracuse for the first of 30 consecutive years.
1975: Section IX (Hudson Valley) wins its only team title as the top five teams finish within 18 points of each other. Jeff Blatnick of Niskayuna (Section II) wins the 215 pound title. Blatnick would later win the Olympic Gold medal in Greco-Roman style at the Los Angeles games in 1984. For the first time ever, Nassau failed to have an individual champion.
1976: The year of the "Huntington Blitz". The Blue Devils send eight wrestlers to the tournament and win school team honors as six wrestlers finished in the top six. Mike Rosebauer (250 pounds) wins the lone title for Huntington. Jeff Thomas takes third after winning two titles in previous titles. Joe Lidowski won his second title for West Babylon.
1977: Nassau wins the team title as Bob DeStefanis (Locust Valley, 105 pounds) and Bob Bury (Calhoun, 112) each win their second titles. Dom Macchia (Island Trees) and Paul Meyers (Baldwin, 145) also won titles for Nassau. Macchia defeated Ed Banach of Port Jervis (Section IX) for the 155-pound crown. Banach and his brother Lou would go on to win Gold Medals at the 1984 Olympics.
1978: Paul Widerman (105 pounds) and Mike Thomas won titles for Huntington. It was Widerman's second straight title. Thomas overcame severe burns suffered in a fire the summer before to win the 138-pound title. Bob Bury of Calhoun wins his third straight title. Section III won the team title.
1979: Suffolk wins the team title with 235 points and crowns five champions including undefeated Joe Petrucci (Brentwood Ross, 126 pounds), Bay Shore's Mike Porcelli (177), and Brentwood Sonderling's Jim Ettari (215). The DeStefanis brothers Carl (98) and Al (105) win titles as Locust Valley won the school team title. Mike Macchia of Island Trees wins second consecutive crown.
1980: Nassau wins the sectional team title as all 14 of its wrestlers place in the tournament, four of them winning titles. Huntington wins the school team title as the Blue Devils advance four boys to the finals, with Bill Gaffney (138) winning the MOW. Carl DeStefanis of Locust Valley wins his second straight title. He would later win the NCAA title at Penn State. Mike Falcon of Sachem won his second straight title as well. Farmingdale's Ron Heller won the 250 pound title. He would later go on to a very successful career as an offensive lineman in the NFL.
1981: Section V (Rochester) wins its first team title. Al Palacio of Long Beach wins the MOW award and his second of three titles. The perfect name for a wrestler: Matt King, of Canandaigua (Section V) wins the 132-pound title. Dan Hopkins (South, 112 pounds) and Pete Mankowich (North, 126 pounds) win Commack Districts's only titles. The PSAL and the CHSAA competed in the tournament for the first time.1982: Al Palacio of Long Beach wins his third straight title. Section II (Albany) wins its first sectional team title. Palacios is one of four Long Beach wrestlers to reach the finals and the lone champion. The Marines won the school team title. Steve Whelan won the 250-pound title for Massapequa becoming his school's first state champion.
1983: Suffolk wins all four of its finals matches and wins the sectional team title by 4.5 points over Section V as East Islip's Ted Gregory's win in the final at 215 locks up the title. Sachem's Dan Mayo records a 39 second pin in the 177 pound final and is named the MOW. Mepham crowned two champs in Dennis Mejas (98) and Mike Arena (126).
1985: Deer Park's Ray Downey (126) over came an early season knee injury to win the MOW and to lead Suffolk to the team title. In the 105 pound final, West Islip's Rick Brzozinski was denied a second title when a malfunction in the clock failed to start after a out-of-bounds call in the third period. Twenty seconds were put back on the clock and Brzozinski lost by a point on a reversal with two seconds left in a very controversial decision.
1986: Suffolk had five champions and five third-place finishers to run away with team title, scoring 246.5 points. Huntington's Gene McNeil (119) and West Islip's Rick Brzozinski (126) each won their second title. Huntington's Drew Jackson (167) was coach Lou Giani's 14th state champion. Chaminade's Robert Murphy (215) became the first wrestler from the CHSAA to win a state public school's title.
1987: Long Beach's Richard Santana (119) and James Scotty Graham (215) each won titles to lead Nassau to its first team title since 1980. Only 19.5 points separated the top five teams. Wayne Wilson (Sachem, 167) and Jeff Haise (Babylon, 98) won titles for Suffolk. Haise is the son of Nassau-Section VIII wrestling chairman Terry Haise.
1988: Lance Banfi of Sachem upset Troy Bouzakis of Pine Bush (Section IX, 99-0 in his career entering that bout) in his career in the quarterfinals and won the 119 pound title. Bouzakis had won state titles the previous two years and would win another two years later. Suffolk crowned three champions and won the team title.
1989: Jamie St. John (145, Port Jefferson) Adam Mariano (177, Comsewogue) each won their second title and lead Suffolk to the team title. Floyd's Bill Friburger won the 250-pound title to give his school its first champion. Tom Sinacore of Bethpage wins the Nassau's first title in two years.
1990: For the only time in tournament history, no Long Islander won an individual title. Suffolk runner-up Steve Thompson of Ward Melville was given the opportunity to compete in the state tournament when a family emergency kept Longwood's Nick Hall from attending the state tournament. Thompson took second at 177 pounds.
1991: Longwood's Nick Hall gets redemption from the previous year as he wins the 215-pound title and the MOW award. Hall is only Long Islander to win an individual title this year. Matt Sorochinsky of Union-Endicott (Section IV) won the title at 145 pounds. His father won two state titles for U-E in 1964 and 1965 making them the first father-son combination to win state titles.
1992: Suffolk sent nine wrestlers to the finals, crowing eight champions. Longwood tied the state record with three individual champions in a year. Duane Thompson (138), John Lange (145), and Kerry McCoy (177) all won titles for the Lions as they won the school team title. Because of a measles epidemic in the Albany area, some wrestlers from that area were forced to wrestle their bouts at Fowler High School in Syracuse instead of the Onondaga County War Memorial. The 250-pound final was one of those bouts. West Islip's Jason Cohen won the title in front of nine people (coaches, officials, scorer, time keeper). Sachem had a pair of champs in John Carvalheira (98) and Jason Kraft, the MOW. Keith Matias of Centereach won his school's first title.
1993: Islip's Tom Longobardi (91) and Copiague's Liston Brown became their schools's first state wrestling champions. John Lange of Longwood (145) and Aldy Teran of Long Beach (155) also won titles.
1994: Suffolk won the sectional team title as Longwood' Rason Phifer (112) and John Lange (155) won titles. Lange won the MOW award and became Suffolk's first three-time state champion. Jim Amira of Huntington (119) and Patchogue-Medford's Tim Minogue (177) also won state crowns.
1995: Longwood's Rason Phifer (112) and Angelo Zegarelli of Deer Park (105) were Long Island's only winners. Phifer won the MOW award and his second title. This marked the end of a five-year run for Longwood in which the Lions had 10 finalists, 8 champions, and three MOWs between 1991 and 1995. Jesse Jantzen of Shoreham-Wading River took third place at 91 pounds becoming the first seventh-grader to ever place in the state tournament.
1996: Freeport's Morlon Greenwood and Isaiah Kacyvenski of Union-Endicott (IV) battled it out in the 215-pound final, won by Greenwood, 3-2. Both of these ex-wrestlers are currently starting linebackers in the NFL, Greenwood with the Houston Texans, and Kacyvenski with the Seattle Seahawks. Mt. Sinai's Ryan Bernholz (132) and Wyandanch's Thomas Marrero each won their school's first state titles.
1997: Jesse Jantzen of Shoreham-Wading River wins the first of his four state titles. Thomas Marrero of Wyandanch won his second title. Kevin Shippos (Baldwin, 215) and Long Beach's Kevin Haggerty (160) also won titles. Suffolk finished in third place for the second straight year.
1998: Freeport's Noel Thompson buzz-sawed his way to the 152-pound title. Jantzen won his second title. Huntington's Dawid Rechul upset the defending champion, Dan Stine of Queensbury (II) in the semifinals, and captured the 189 pound title.
1999: Suffolk wins its first title in five years. Jesse Jantzen wins the MOW award his and third straight title. Michael Messina of Hauppauge (130) won his second title, and Floyd's Ryan Maurer (135) won his first title. Tom Katsigiorgis (189) wins a title for Massapequa.
2000: Suffolk crowns seven champions and easily wins the team title. Jantzen wins his second MOW award and fourth title. He finishes his career with a record of 221-3, and 163 consecutive victories. Mike Torriero of Rocky Point records the fastest pin the history of the state finals, 37 seconds, to become his school's first state champion. Jack Piana (160) and Pat Flynn (103) both won titles for Huntington. Lucas Magnani of St. Anthony's becomes only the second CHSAA wrestler to win a public schools state crown. Sewanhaka District's Matt Daddino is the lone Nassau champ.
2001: Suffolk wins another team title as Rob Vaccaro of East Islip (98) won his second title. Bellport's Dan Roberts (130) won his school's first title. Mike Patrovich of Islip (152) and Uthman Jackson of Amityville (140) also won titles. Jackson defeated Mike Williams of Hicksville, after Williams transferred from Floyd before the start of the season. Jackson won his school's first title since 1968.
2002: Suffolk scores a record 256 points, crowned five champions, and won its record fourth straight title. Huntington had three champions in Pat Flynn (112), Steven Palacios (125), and Stephon Sair (145) to give the Blue Devils their fourth school team title. MacArthur's James Strouse and Central Islip's Jose Viera win their school's first titles. Tom Finnerty of Brentwood (96) won his school's first title since Joe Plante in 1984. Greg Lawrence (171) of Calhoun and Chris Weiman of Baldwin (189) won titles to help Nassau to a second-place finish for the second time in three years.
2003: The end of an era in many ways. The final year of the singular format. And the last year the tournament is held in Syracuse after a 30-year run. Mike LaBella (189) of Massapequa wins three straight one-point matches enroute to the title. Gian Villante (215) of MacArthur won a title. Hills East's Steven Hromada (125) is the lone Suffolk champ.
2004: The tournament splits into two divisions (large schools and small schools) and is held outside of Section III for the first time since 1969. The University of Buffalo hosted the meet. Huntington sent three wrestlers in to the finals for a record fourth time with Shawn Riley emerging as a champion. Blue Devils coach Lou Giani now has a state record 23 individual champions and five school-team titles. Suffolk won the Division I title with eight finalists and three champions. Kenny Torres (112) of Brentwood and West Babylon's Alton Lucas won titles. Sewanhaka District's Tom Daddino added another state title to the family legacy.
2005: Albany hosted the tournament for the first time ever and a record crown of 9,200 attended the finals. Islip crowned a record-tying three champions with Tom Magnani (119), Chris Wade (140), and Ryan Patrovich (152) winning titles. Alton Lucas of West Babylon (160) won his second straight title. John Oschmann of Hauppauge won the 96 pound title. Floyd's John Barone (171) and Huntington's Jack Sullivan both lost in the finals for the second year in a row. Troy Nickerson of Chenango Forks (IV) won his record fifth title and third MOW award. In perhaps the most controversial match in state history, North Rockland's C. J. Rodriguez appeared to have won the Division I, 135 pound final, 7-6 over LaSalle's Paul Florio. Rodriguez threw his headgear in jubilation after the buzzer sounded and Florio was awarded two penalty points, touching off a near-riot, and six months of court battles. Florio was awarded the title.