In the face of a winter storm, the Wheatley grapplers hosted the 18th Annual Wheatley Wrestling Tournament on Saturday, Jan. 10. While most people were safe in their homes, this group of competitors braved outdoor elements and indoor physical challenges to become the Wheatley Invitational Tournament Champions. Thirteen teams from Nassau and Suffolk Counties competed in this all-day event.
In the long history of the Wheatley Invitational Tournament, the Wildcats have never won the team title. The Wildcats have finished as runners-up on numerous occasions.
Going into the final round of wrestling it appeared that the Wildcats, once again, would have to settle for second place. Trailing the North Shore Vikings by 10 points and leading the Port Jefferson Royals by only one point, the Wildcats needed flawless performances by their four finalists and five consolation finalists to improve their position in the standings.
At 119 pounds, co-captain Will Forero started the Wildcats on the right path with a 7-1 victory. Darius Izad picked up more points with his 4-2 victory for third place at 130 pounds. Gabe Hogan continued the winning ways with an 8-7 victory for a third place finish at 135 pounds.
In a bout that carried added incentive, co-captain Justin Casale faced Tom Shaw from North Shore. This head-to-head bout between the two teams vying for the team championship would most likely determine the final outcome of the tournament.
Battling to the end, Casale outscored Shaw 11-6. This victory coupled with George Braun's third place victory at 160 pounds sealed the fate of the Wildcats.
The team efforts of Matt DeBeneditis, Brandon Casale, Will Forero, Mike Affigne (4th place), Greg Tanenbaum (2nd place), Darius Izad, Gabe Hogan, Justin Casale, Thomas Beague (2nd Place), George Braun, Dan Mageau (4th place), Anthony Marini (4th place) and Billy Shea provided Wheatley with a historic moment - its first team championship at its own tournament.