Long Beach senior wrestlers Dylan Palacio and Mark Raghunandan are the best of friends and brothers in disappointment.
Both came painfully close to winning a state title last year, and at this late stage of the season, both remain undefeated. Palacio (40-0), who is campaigning at 160, finished third at states last year after losing his 145-pound semifinal match to Rocky Point's Matt Ross by a point.
"I'm pumped. I'm closer to my dreams," Palacio said. "Every day that goes by, I mark it off on the calendar. It is coming down to the wire. It's my legacy. I've had it so close before, and it has been taken away from me."
Raghunandan's defeat in the 103-pound state final was especially gut-wrenching. Holding a two-point lead with 10 seconds remaining against Arlington's Jimmy Duckham, he allowed a reversal and two back points, leaving him -- and a crowd of thousands at Albany's Times Union Center -- in stunned disbelief.
Now at 113 pounds, he said that loss left him more motivated than ever.
"I felt like if I would have won that state title, I might have had that senior letdown and not wrestled as well," Raghunandan said. "This year I'm just really hungry, 38-0 right now, and I plan on staying undefeated."
As for the NYSPHSAA state tournament next month in Albany, they can only imagine a scenario where both reach the top of the podium.
"That would be a storybook ending," Palacio said. "It's just something that has eluded us. We're a tag team. We thrive off each other."