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Youngsters help Long Island spoil Sacred Heart’s home opener

Sacred Heart’s Will Schmidt, right, had a big pin in Wednesday night’s loss against Long Island. (Chuck Steenburgh photo courtesy of VMI)

The Long Island University wrestling is a young team in just their second year in Division I. But three freshmen and one cagy veteran helped the Sharks beat Sacred Heart on Wednesday, 24-16 in the home opener for the Pioneers at the Pitt Center in Fairfield.

Long Island freshmen Bryce Cockrell (125) threw up in a garbage can between periods but was still able to earn a two-point victory. Freshman Devin Matthews (133), a Class S champion for Gilbert in Winsted last February, got an escape with 1:08 remaining to earn a one-point win.

Shark freshman Drew Witham (141) successfully countered an early takedown attempt and won by pin in 53 seconds while Long Island junior Chris Gomez (149) snapped a 3-3 tie but successfully countering a takedown attempt and getting a pin.

“The kids are trying not to give up takedowns and sometimes it puts them in a tough situation. They got caught,” Sacred Heart coach John Clark said. “It’s tough.”

Clark had mixed emotions. He and his Pioneers are searching for the that validating victory. But he is quite aware of the big picture of wrestling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m thankful to be wrestling,” he said. “Anytime you lose, it is tough. We’re thankful to be competing here at home for the first time in 11 months. It was an exciting dual with some big wins for our guys and I think everyone got to see a good match.”

Still, the Pioneers (0-2, 0-1 EIWA) battled back and had a chance to win at the end.

Long Island (1-1, 1-0 EIWA) had a 21-6 lead with three matches remaining. Sacred Heart’s Nick Palumbo (157) had four takedowns and a pair of near falls in a 15-3 victory over LIU’s Kenny Cooper to cut the lead to 11 points, 21-10.

Long Island’s Ryan Ferro, who wrestled two years at Ohio State before transferring, had a 4-2 lead over Sacred Heart’s Will Schmidt (165). Ferro had two takedowns and Schmidt battled to get two escapes.

In the waning seconds of the first period, Schmidt got an inside arm of Ferro and threw him to his back near the edge of the circle. But Schmidt had the poise to keep one foot in bounds, squeezed tight and got a huge pin with one second left in the first period in 2:59.

That cut the Sharks’ lead to five points, 21-16, with one match remaining. A pin would win it for the Pioneers while a technical fall would tie the match.

Sacred Heart’s Scotty Jarosz (174) had a 4-2 lead in the third period. Twice, he put Long Island’s James Langan on his back but couldn’t get the pin.

Needing the pin, Jarosz took a chance on a takedown in the final 10 seconds only to see Langan get a takedown and a two-point near fall to get a 6-5 victory and give the Sharks a 24-16 victory.

Sacred Heart took a 6-0 lead with victories from Newtown’s Joe Accousti (174) and Robert Hetherman (197), who was making his season debut. The Pioneers’ Marc Blokh, who normally wrestles 197, dropped a 4-2 decision to Long Island’s Tim Nagosky (285), giving up about 80 pounds.

Cockrell (125) threw up between the first and second period but still had a 3-0 lead after one period. He got a takedown with 10 seconds left in the first period and an escape with two seconds left in the second. His 4-2 win over Sean Faraon tied the bout at 6-6.

Matthews (133) improved to 2-3 with his 3-2 win over Sacred Heart’s Kyle Randall. Matthews got the initial takedown of the match only to see Randall cut the lead to one after an escape. Randall tied the match with another second period escape. Matthews’ escape with 1:08 left was the match-winning point that gave Long Island their first lead, 9-6.

Pins by Witham (141) and Gomez (149) gave the Sharks a big 21-6 advantage.

“There are a lot of ways to feel (about this),” Clark said. “The kids are competing and that is a good thing. That is why we are here – for the kids.”

The Pioneers return to action on Sunday when they host Bucknell (0-2) at 2 p.m. at the Pitt Center. The match will be broadcast live on NEC Front, The Bison are coming off a 29-9 loss to No. 18 Oklahoma.

Long Island University 24, Sacred Heart 16
At Fairfield
184: Joe Accousti (SH) dec. Dan Shafran, 6-1; 197: Robert Hetherman (SH) dec. T.J. Franden, 6-1; 285: Tim Nagosky (LI) dec. Marc Blokh, 4-2; 125: Bryce Cockrell (LI) dec. Sean Faraon, 4-2; 133: Devin Matthews (LI) dec. Kyle Randall, 3-2; 141: Drew Witham (LI) pin Ryan Burns, 0:53; 149: Chris Gomez (LI) pin Seth Brown, 4:21; 157: Nick Palumbo (SH) dec. Kenny Cooper, 16-3; 165: Will Schmidt (SH) pin Ryan Ferro, 2:59; 174: James Langhan (LI) dec. Scott Jarosz, 6-5
Records: Long Island 1-1, 1-0 EIWA; Sacred Heart 0-2, 0-1 EIWA

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of Connecticut Wrestling Online. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 40 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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