CROTON-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. – Hackley jumped out to a 24-0 lead on Croton-Harmon and appeared to be ready to cruise to victory.
But the Tigers battled back in the lower and middle weight classes to grab a 31-30 lead heading into the final two matches.
Hackley’s grapplers came through in the clutch and won the final two bouts to pull out a 39-31 win over Croton on Thursday.
At 160 pounds, sophomore Damis Yancopolous pinned Croton’s Eli Greenstein in 1:11 to give Hackley a 36-31 lead heading into the final match.
“I always try to start out a match real tough and get in the other guy’s head,” Yancopolous said. “I got in his head and pushed him around a little bit. I almost got the first takedown but we went out of bounds. I got back out there and got him down. I just got around his head and pulled as hard as I could.”
Hackley coach Fran Stanek was impressed with Yancopolous, a first-year wrestler.
“That win just ignited the whole team,” said Stanek, whose squad improved to 13-7. “He’s got over 10 wins for us this year.
Yancopolous, a former basketball player, has seen immediate success in his first season on the mats.
“I used to play basketball and when I came to Hackley as a freshman, the wrestling coach kept trying to get me to wrestle,” he said. “This year I decided, ‘Why not just go for it?’”
Hackley freshman Milo Lempert then picked up an 8-6 win over Sam Goldsmith to close the match out. Lempert is also wrestling for the first time.
The Hornets started off on a roll by winning the first four matches to build a 24-0 advantage. Senior Will Johnson (182 pounds) and sophomore Xavier Carmona (220) both picked up pins, while Rodrigo Mejias (195) and Ben Jurcic (285) won by forfeit. Johnson pinned Matt Seputro in just 14 seconds.
“Will Johnson started off really well for us at 182,” Stanek said of his captain. “Xavier Carmona is now 22-2 on the season. We’re expecting big things from him come the postseason.”
Then it was the Tigers’ turn to pick up a string of victories.
Croton won seven out of the next eight matches. Andrew Barsuch started the rally off at 106 pounds with a pin of Mike Tarantino in just 23 seconds. Tom Schulz then earned a hard-fought 13-12 win over Stephen Zak at 113 pounds.
D.J. Frederich, who recently earned his 100th career win, picked up a pin at 120 pounds. David Occhipinti followed with another pin at 126 pounds and Dan Guido earned a 3-0 decision to tie the match up at 24-24.
Hackley’s Justin Seim then won by forfeit at 138 pounds. Croton took a 31-30 lead heading into the final two matches after victories by Johnny Martin (145 pounds) and Andrew Horan (152).
“I tip my hat to Hackley,” Croton coach Sam Occhipinti said. “They’re a very well-coached team and did an outstanding job against some of our better wrestlers. The usual cast of characters did well for us, which is our light to middle weights. Those are the kids that really pull us through all of our dual meets.”
Croton was missing Chris Kraft, who usually anchors the heavier weights and competes at either 195 or 220 pounds.
Despite the loss, the Tigers are still having a strong season with a 22-10 dual meet record. They won their host tournament last Sunday by defeating Sleepy Hollow in the championship match.
“We’ve really had a phenomenal season,” coach Occhipinti said. “We’re wrestling to the best of our ability in every one of our matches.”
The veteran coach is hoping his team is peaking at the right time heading into the Division 2 sectionals.
“We’re going to be right in the mix at the end,” he said. “Anywhere in the top three is basically what we’re looking for. If they can wrestle the way they’re supposed to wrestle, we’re going to surprise a lot of people. We can give Nanuet and Edgemont a good run for their money.”
Hackley is hoping to keep improving with the postseason around the corner.
“We would really like to win Ivy’s and states as a team,” Stanek said. “Horace Mann has obviously been winning it for the last 10 years now. I think it’s in our grasp, but it’s going to be a challenge for us. I think we can do it.”
182 – Will Johnson (H) pin Matt Seputro, :14
195 – Rodrigo Mejias (H) by forfeit
220 – Xavier Carmona (H) pin Alek Pavloff, 2:30
285 – Ben Jurcic (H) by forfeit
99 – Double forfeit
106 – Andrew Barsuch (CH) pin Mike Tarantino, :23
113 – Tom Schulz (CH) dec. Stephen Zak, 13-12
120 – D.J. Frederich (CH) pin Sam Welch, 1:28
126 – David Occhipinti (CH) pin Matt MacFarlane, 3:26
132 – Dan Guido (CH) dec. Chris Breen, 3-0
138 – Justin Seim (H) by forfeit
145 – Johnny Martin (CH) dec. Josh Terry, 4-1
152 – Andrew Horan (CH) maj. dec. Andre Newland, 9-1
160 – Damis Yancopolous (H) pin Eli Greenstein, 1:11
170 – Milo Lempert (H) dec. Sam Goldsmith, 8-6
Follow Rob DiAntonio on Twitter @MSGV_RJD