Nick Mauriello has his story-book ending. But wait for the epilogue. He's qualified for the state championships.
A year ago, the Hauppauge wrestler lay in a hospital bed breathing with the aid of a ventilator in the intensive care unit of Stony Brook University Hospital as he battled MRSA and Lemierre's Syndrome, which threatened to take his life.
Last night, in the Indoor Sports Complex at Stony Brook University, Mauriello added another chapter to his comeback in front of more than 4,000 wrestling fans at the Suffolk County championships.
"It is truly a remarkable comeback," Hauppauge coach Chris Messina said. "To come back from a life-threatening situation in which he needed to be in a drug-induced coma to wrestle again at this level is just incredible. The road has not been easy but here he is battling for the title."
Mauriello completed an impressive run to the 132-pound title with a hard-fought 5-3 decision over Connetquot's Joey Gates. Mauriello broke a 3-3 tie with a third period reversal for the win, avenging an earlier defeat to the talented Gates.
"I wanted to wrestle smart and be patient," Mauriello said. "Gates is a very good wrestler and he counters from anywhere. I stayed away from his double underhooks because he's so dangerous."
As the capacity crowd stood and applauded the end of the bout, Mauriello celebrated with his coaches, including his father, Nick Sr., before heading to the bleachers where he embraced his mom, Sheila.
"Without her I wouldn't be here," he said. "She stayed in the hospital with me every night, sleeping on a chair -- never leaving my side. She's been through it all."
Gates stood proud mat side as Mauriello soaked in the victory and recognized what his opponent had been through. "His story is overwhelming and he's a tough kid," Gates said. "It was a great match and it came down to the third period."
Mauriello's summer workout partner, Maverick Passaro of Eastport-South Manor, gave his school its first county champion. Passaro captured the 126 title with a 5-1 win over Giovanni Sanchez of Central Islip, a two-time county runnerup.
"He's been so technically sound and doesn't make mistakes," Eastport-South Manor coach Nick Garone said. "We've put in the time to finally get the school a county champ."
Smithtown West crowned its first county champion since 1980 when heavyweight Michael Hughes decisioned Anthony Puca of Huntington, 2-0. Hughes, who improved to 40-1, is only the second county titlist in school history.
"I wanted to win this for my Mom, who is recovering from breast cancer," said Hughes. "This feels real good."
It was an especially gratifying tournament for Longwood's Nick Hall. He won his second straight county crown with a 4-3 win over John Keck of Shoreham-Wading River at 152.
"I've been here before and I was more relaxed," said Hall. "My dad was so nervous but I wasn't going to let him down."
Hall and his father, Nick Sr., who won in 1990 and 1991, including a state championship in 1991, became the first father-son tandem to each win two Suffolk championships.
Brentwood won the team title with 151 points, the school's 10th crown. It became the second team ever to win without crowning an individual champ. Longwood finished second with 144.5 points and four champions.
Unseeded Sayville junior Matt Leshinger edged T.J. Fabian of Shoreham-Wading River, 5-4, in a double overtime thriller at 120 to cop Most Outstanding Wrestler and the champion of champions. Leshinger's path to the title was blocked by defending county champion Sean McCabe of Connetquot, the top seed, former state champ Mark West of Hauppauge, the four seed and Fabian, the two seed.
"It was the toughest weight class in the tournament," Garone said. "he was deserving of all the awards."
99 – Alex Tanzman (Westhampton) d. Steven Lee (West Babylon), 2-1 tiebreaker.
106 – Nick Piccininni (Ward Melville) d. Mike D’Angelo (Commack), 6-3.
113 – Corey Jamison (Huntington) d. Eric Orellana (Brentwood), 1-0.
120 – Matt Leshinger (Sayville) d. T.J. Fabian (Shoreham-Wading River), 5-4, OT.
126 – Maverick Passaro (Eastport-South Manor) d. Giovanni Sanchez (Central Islip), 5-1.
132 – Nick Mauriello (Hauppauge) d. Joe Gates (Connetquot, 5-3.
138 – Malik Rasheed (Longwood) d. Alexis Blanco (Brentwood), 3-1, OT.
145 – Corey Rasheed (Longwood) p. Anthony Pistone (Sachem East), 3:58.
152 – Nick Hall (Longwood) d. John Keck (Shoreham-Wading River), 4-3.
160 - Tyler Grimaldi (Hills West) d. Zak Mullen (Shoreham-Wading River), 5-0.
170 – Dylen Seybolt (Longwood) d. Joe Piccolo (Hills West), 5-4.
182 – Gio Santiago (Sachem North) d. Nick Bellanza (Glenn), :52.
195 -- Zack Conner (Islip) d. Ryan Kelly (Miller Place), 5:20.
220 – David Rubino (Commack) d. Steven Mills (Sachem North), 6-2.
285 – Mike Hughes (Smithtown West) d. Anthony Puca (Huntington), 2-0.
Most Outstanding Wrestler and Champion of Champions – Matt Leshinger, Sayville,