Longwood's Malik Rasheed should have been flying high. But after beating Smithtown East's Luke Outcault with a 5-2 decision in the 138-pound final of the Smithtown Wrestling Tournament at Smithtown West, he immediately stormed through the nearest open door, took a seat outside and put his hands behind his head.
The senior, a three-time county championship place winner, aims for perfection. Winning does not necessarily cure all ills.
"I just like wrestling my best every match," Rasheed said. "It wasn't my best day, but I still took first. It's not good enough, though."
Rasheed advanced to the final with a 6-2 semifinal win over Hauppauge's previously undefeated Sam Schwartzapfel (14-1). But as he cooled down following the championship, he candidly discussed his lack of confidence. He spoke of a need to improve his conditioning and set up his shots better to finish off overmatched foes.
His coach, Mike Picozzi, seemed a bit more optimistic.
"He had a bad injury in his ribs last year that really hampered him, and he doesn't have that this year, Picozzi said. "He is not cutting a lot of weight and is working hard, so it will work out for him."
Rasheed has more than a month until championship season, which he hopes will give him ample time to recapture his missing mojo.
"I don't plan on just winning counties," Rasheed said. "I plan on winning states as well. I've been wrestling since I was four to get this opportunity. This is my last year, so I guess I just have to train harder than I have been."
Corey Rasheed, Malik's brother, won at 145 pounds with a 6-1 decision against Smithtown East's Eric Binder.
At 120 pounds, Connetquot's Sean McCabe took an 8-5 decision from Hauppauge's Mark West. Tied at four heading into the final period, a reversal with less than a minute remaining propelled McCabe to the win.
"I was dead, but I just gave it everything I could," said McCabe, last year's county champion at 112 pounds. "I knew I needed those two points, and I wasn't going out with a loss."
McCabe leads the season series 2-1, as the two split a pair of decisions earlier in the season. They are friends and occasional offseason training partner, and if all goes according to plans, they will meet for a fourth time with a county title at stake.
"I hate to wrestle my buddies," McCabe said. "But I did what I had to do."
McCabe also won the tournament's Most Outstanding Wrestler and Champion of Champions honors.
In the 132-pound final, Connetquot's Joey Gates pinned Hauppauge's Nick Mauriello in 5:02, avenging a 6-5 decision loss back on Dec. 29. Mauriello, who has returned to the mat after successfully fighting a serious case of MRSA, fell to 15-1.
Connetquot won the team championship with 267 points, defeating runner-up Hauppauge by two. The Thunderbirds had four individual champions: Gates, McCabe, Steven Bulzomi (113) and Kenny Drew (220).