Uniondale's big trio advances to semis
Uniondale coach Tim Godoy did something a little out of the ordinary during Friday's practice. He placed an old stool in the middle of the wrestling room, and one by one, instructed his three best wrestlers to stand on top of the stool.
"This is what it is going to feel like to win a county championship," Godoy told them.
For a brief moment, Davion Porter (195 pounds), Andrew Cole (220) and Dante Salkey (285) envisioned a scenario where all three won county championships. And on the first day of the Nassau Division I championships Saturday at Hofstra, Salkey, Cole and Porter each won two matches to advance to Sunday's semifinal.
"Everybody knows Uniondale for our heavyweights, so we just have to go out there and show why we're known for that," Cole said. "We like to live up to expectations, and if we can, surpass them."
Porter (34-1) scored two pins in a combined 4:26, while Cole (36-1) notched a pin and an 11-0 major decision. That left Salkey (34-2) to win his quarterfinal, and with a 3-2 decision over Long Beach's Pete Amabile, the trio survived Day 1 unscathed.
"It's really satisfying because we've pushed each other all season," Salkey said. "We had an amazing practice on Thursday, pushed for three hours straight in hot conditions."
Thursday, the Knights went full blast in their wrestling room, located just below the school's boiler room. As they have done all season, the Uniondale heavyweights fed off one another, another pre-championship practice in a room straight out of "Dante's Inferno."
"That practice was crazy," Porter said. "We had a few teams and some alumni come down. The room was hot, about 103 degrees. We were all running at full speed. It really got me ready for counties because if I could wrestle well in there, imagine how I could wrestle in a big room."
Porter, Cole and Salkey thrived in the "big room," six mats going at all times with the air conditioning swirling.
Two more wins apiece, and the three Knights will re-enact Friday's practice, this time with a podium rather than a worn-out stool.
Wantagh's Jose Rodriguez, the top seed at 99 pounds, improved to 39-0 with a pin of Long Beach's Jaemon Connelly at 1:33 in the quarters. A freshman, Rodriguez, had a bye in the first round and earned a 15-0 technical fall against Island Trees' Chris Donnelly in the second round.
He will wrestle Plainedge's Hector Guerrero in the semis.
"Being the number one guy, everybody wants to come after me," Rodriguez said. "So there's a little pressure. Nothing too big."
The top seed at 160, Long Beach's Dylan Palacio (35-0), wasted little time in advancing to the semis. His two matches lasted a total of 1:22, including a 20-second quarterfinal win against MacArthur's Joe Tangredi.
"I've been training so hard this week, pushing myself harder than ever," said Palacio, a two-time county champion. "This just shows that I've been ready for this tournament."
Defending county champion and No. 1 seed Andrew Jones (38-3) cradled Valley Stream South's Kenny Olson in nine seconds to advance to the 182-pound semis against Dennis Melendez of Sewanhaka West.