ALBANY, NY - For the second year in a row, senior Matt Leshinger of Sayville reeled off four straight victories in the Division I state wrestling tournament. Last year, Leshinger lost in the quarterfinals but was able to wrestle back in the consolation bracket to finish third.
This year, as the top seed at 132 pounds, Leshinger never stumbled and finished his senior campaign with a dramatic 3-1 victory in the finals over Brandon Lapi of Amsterdam.
Leshinger scored his final two points late in the match and held on to give Sayville just its second ever state champion and the first since Peter Yozzo in 1983.
"I knew I was going to win it then," he said about that last takedown. "I knew what to do to finish the match."
Leshinger also overcame elbow surgery in the offseason and had a year to think about how close he was to a state title.
"It was a great tournament he had last year," coach Gary Pesko said. "He had a mismatch of styles in the quarterfinals and he knew he was better than that and finished how he should with only one loss.
"Coming back this year in his mind -- and we didn't really talk about it -- but I knew in his mind, winning a state title was what he was shooting for," Pesko said.
Mepham's Louis Hernandez wasn't as successful as Leshinger last season but the two-time defending Nassau champ at 145 pounds came to Albany with the same goal in mind.
"I trained so hard during the offseason and every day, I thought to myself 'state champ, state champ!' " he said. "Every day, I looked in the mirror and said 'state champ.' I go to sleep and I dream 'state champ' and I wake up and I think 'state champ.' "
A late takedown helped Hernandez secure a 4-2 victory over Eric Lewandowski of Lancaster. "I knew when I was there and I got in on the shot, I had to finish and I knew I had to achieve my goal," he said. "I finished it and I got it."
In Division II, Locust Valley's Nick Casella (113) and Port Jefferson's Matteo DeVincenzo (99) lost in their finals.