Wrestling: North Rockland earns sectional crown


North Rockland’s Nick Didio is one of the more soft-spoken wrestlers on a team filled with spirited characters, but the senior earned the right to pound his chest a bit on Sunday.

The 160-pounder was the top seed for the Division 1 sectional championships, but he had yet to wrestle any of the other highly seeded competitors, which caused many to view his weight class as wide-open.

Didio put an end to the debate at Clarkstown South High School with a convincing 12-5 decision over Somers senior Dom Celli in the championship bout.

“I feel like I proved myself to everybody that was doubting (me and thought the match) was a toss-up,” he said. “It makes me feel good that I handled him.”

Didio was one of a school-record four champs for the Red Raiders, who won their second consecutive team title by a wide margin. Juniors Alex D’Angelo (106 pounds) and Blaise Benderoth (152) also won their first titles for North Rockland, while senior Matt Caputo (138) won his second in the only finals match that featured two defending sectional champs.

Caputo was tied with Brewster senior Liam Erickson late in the match, but secured a 3-1 decision with a takedown mere seconds before overtime.

“I was expecting to pin him, major him, tech him, but it didn’t work out,” Caputo said. “He obviously studied me. … He just locked me up and didn’t let me shoot — kind of stalled me out, and looked for something big at the end. He did a good job of wrestling me.”

Fox Lane matched North Rockland with four finalists, but only senior Ben Ettlinger captured a title, winning a 5-2 decision over Ketcham junior Danny Murphy in the 145 final to help the Foxes finish second.

“I feel bad for all of my other teammates because they were all right there,” Ettlinger said. “There’s mixed emotions, but for myself personally, I couldn’t be more happy.”

Ettlinger’s teammate Matt Grippi, who as an eighth-grader already has made a name for himself around Section 1, lost a 7-3 decision to Byram Hills’ Jon Errico in the 120 final. The junior also beat Grippi during last weekend’s sectional qualifier after losing to him in the Shoreline tournament finals.

“I just had a really good game plan the past two matches,” said Errico, who became the first sectional champ in program history. “At divisionals, I went out there looking not just to wrestle, but to really dominate. I was doing the same thing here, but he’s a tough wrestler.”

Ossining senior Alex Delacruz won his second title with a 4-2 decision over Suffern junior Daiton Powell in the 126 final. After breaking Steven Tornambe’s school record for career wins in the semifinals, the only defending state champ from Section 1 pulled off a reversal with 11 seconds remaining to break a 2-2 tie against Powell.

“It reminds me that I still have to be hungry and there’s kids coming after me,” said Delacruz, who now has 172 career wins. “You have to give your best all of the time, and just don’t be afraid.”

While Delacruz narrowly avoided the upset, Mamaroneck junior Youssif Hemida pulled off the biggest surprise of the tournament, beating defending champ John Hartnett of Tappan Zee in the 220 semifinals with a 6-4 decision in overtime.

Hemida, who had wrestled only four matches during the regular season after missing two months with a fracture in his neck, followed with a 7-3 decision over Mahopac junior Ryan Delahanty in the finals to earn Most Outstanding Wrestler honors. He became the first sectional champ in Mamaroneck program history.

“There’s still a lot more that needs to be done,” said Hemida, who was seeded 13th. “I have my eyes on a state title — either this year, next year, or both. I have a lot more to do.”

Pearl River senior John Muldoon (132) and Tappan Zee senior Mike Manni (285) won their second consecutive titles, while Brewster senior Gino Gioielli (170) won his first.

Twitter: @vzmercogliano

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