Point by point, the Ward Melville wrestling team's won its share of individual matches. Match by match, it's racked up its share of wins. Add it all up and Wednesday's 50-18 triumph over nonleague foe Sachem North was a special one. It marked the 300th victory for longtime coach Bill DeSario, who first helmed the Patriots in 1969,
After coaching at SUNY Brockport, DeSario came to Ward Melville 40 years ago and reached Wednesday's milestone despite taking 11 years off to watch his own kids play sports. Only three other coaches in Suffolk County history have won 300 at one high school. The others include Lou Giani of Huntington, Jack Mahoney of Sachem and Tony Mellino of West Islip. DeSario, a 2010 inductee into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, was quick to credit all the athletes who had come through the program.
"I couldn't get 300 wins without good kids who work hard," DeSario said. "As long as you work hard and compete, you get results like tonight. Three hundred wins is a reflection of all the good kids I've coached."
It was the early wrestlers who set the tone against North. Chris Bursztyn won a wrestle-off on Tuesday for the right to be in Wednesday's varsity lineup at 171 pounds, and he gave Ward Melville a huge lift by outlasting the Arrows' Anthony Marino, 2-1. Bursztyn's lone points came when he reversed Marino early in the second period. He clung to the one-point lead as the final seconds ticked off.
"We didn't know he was going to wrestle until yesterday," DeSario said. "We don't have a legitimate 189. He wrestled off yesterday and I talked to Coach [Kurt] Ferraro and we thought that Chris was a little lighter than [Erik Tangen] and at 189 he'd be giving up a whole bunch of weight."
Tangen's match at 189 was far more decisive. The senior manhandled the Arrows' Chris Schulz, earning a win by technical fall in the second period. After a 6-1 first, Tangen twice gained back points on Schulz in the second, the latter time resulting in a three-point near-fall that ended the match at 18-3.
Sachem North did answer at 215 and heavyweight, though. First, Mike McCarthy scored a big win against Pierce Curran. McCarthy trailed 2-1 after one period, but quickly got to his feet in the second to even the score. He took Curran down midway through the round, and held on in the third to win 5-2. At 285, Anthony Confessore controlled his match. He twice took down Ward Melville's Dan Nilsson, and the second time he turned it into a win by fall at 3:28.
DeSario said he had come into the match hoping to take at least two matches from 171 to heavyweight, and the Patriots got their two early. North led 9-8 through the first four matches, but opportunities were already lost, and the Patriots surged ahead for good with their elite lower-weight wrestlers. At 96 pounds, Donny Donnelly stuck his opponent at 0:57, and fellow eighth-grader Nick Piccininni registered a first-period pin, his coming in 49 seconds.
"[Donny and Nick] just go, go, go," DeSario said. "It's a great way to start at that part of the match. The other team has to have some real good wrestlers to win those two."
The Patriots scored another big win when senior Jackson Hoppey stunned the Arrows' Sean O'Hagan at 112 with a 5-4 victory. O'Hagan gave up top position with a under a minute to go to fall down 5-2, but reversed Hoppey with 15 ticks remaining. O'Hagan made a last-ditch effort to score back points but couldn't, and Hoppey prevailed, 5-4.
"Hoppey was awesome," DeSario said. "It was one of those matches where we thought O'Hagan would be light [he's wrestled 103 pounds to this point this year] but he was right at 112. Jackson did a nice job. He's a senior. He knows how to wrestle."
Ward Melville went on to win six of the final eight matches of the day, including the next 18 points after Napoli's pin had cut the Arrow deficit to 23-15. John Greco punctuated that stretch at 140 pounds, reversing Nick Iannello in triple overtime to take that match, 6-4. Iannello had taken a 4-3 lead in double OT, but was hit with a stalling call when it was his turn on top. It had only reached extra time because Greco, after having given up a takedown with 10 seconds remaining in regulation, answered with a two-point reversal at the buzzer.
"It was a good match," DeSario said. "For Sachem to win at that point, we only needed one kid to not get pinned, but John's win was icing on the cake."
The Patriots, now 2-0 in duals on the young season, travel west for the Northport Team Duals on Dec. 29. They begin their league schedule on Jan. 5 when they visit Commack.
Weight Winner by Loser Result/Time 96 Donny Donnelly (WM) pinned Matt Stallone 0:57 103 Nick Piccininni (WM) pinned Nick Perez 0:49 112 Jackson Hoppey (WM) dec. Sean O'Hagan 5-4 119 Frank Napoli (SN) pinned Mike Chaiken 0:31 125 Rob Kraus (WM) pinned Matt Marino 3:31 130 Anthony Piccininni (WM) dec. Franky Blais 4-3 135 Taesung Kim (WM) pinned Mike Foley 3:59 140 John Greco (WM) dec. Nick Iannello 6-4 (3 OT) 145 Richie Avella (SN) dec. Paul Thompson 6-2 152 Anthony Stella (WM) dec. James Schreck 13-8 160 Brian McKenna (WM) pinned Vin Provenzano
2:57 171 Chris Bursztyn (WM) dec. Anthony Marino 2-1 189 Erik Tangen (WM) tech fall Chris Schulz 18-3 215 Mike McCarthy (SN) dec. Pierce Curran 5-2 Hvy Anthony Confessore (SN) pinned Dan Nilsson 3:28