LOCH SHELDRAKE – With his older brothers, Joey and Tom, in his corner on Friday at the 13th annual Eastern States Classic at Sullivan Community College, freshman Matt Grippi showed why his family is considered wrestling royalty at Fox Lane.
The 132-pounder pulled off one of the biggest upsets on the first day of the prestigious tournament, upsetting third-seeded Nick Casella of Locust Valley with a flurry in the closing seconds of the match to punch his ticket to Saturday’s quarterfinal round.
“It’s the greatest feeling, those last second victories,” Grippi said. “My brother Joey, throughout his whole career in college and high school, he had those last second victories. … I guess it runs in the family.”
Trailing 1-0 with 20 seconds remaining, Grippi executed a reversal and quickly turned Casella for two back points for a stunning 4-3 decision.
“I knew that if I escaped (to tie it), we would go to overtime, and that would be a difficult situation for me,” Grippi said. “He was dominating me on my feet, so I knew that if I shot out and was able to grab his ankle, I could pop my hips over to get the reversal and possibly (back points). That’s what I did.”
Grippi wasn’t the only underclassmen from Section 1 to make some noise.
John Jay sophomore Conor Melbourne earned a spot in the 138-pound quarterfinals with his 7-4 decision over eighth-seeded Owen Bachelder of Hewlett. He’ll get top-seeded Mike D’Angelo of Commack next.
“I’m pretty pumped,” Melbourne said. “It would be nice to take down the one-seed. I can’t make mistakes. I’ve made some stupid mistakes in the past, and if I make dumb mistakes, it really puts the match away. But if I wrestle smart and wrestle hard, I think I can win.”
Ten local wrestlers advanced to the quarters, which will begin at 9:15 a.m. on Saturday.
Two each from Section 1 are still alive at 195 and 220 pounds, with Mamaroneck senior Youssif Hemida and Horace Greeley senior Brock Cvijanovich set to face-off in a 220-pound quarterfinal.
Hemida beat Cvijanovich with a 5-1 decision last week at the Murphy-Guccione Shoreline Classic, but Cvijanovich is excited for another shot at his nationally-ranked rival.
“I never duck somebody,” said Cvijanovich, who picked up his 100th career win on Friday. “I love those matches. I think when it becomes more about the medals and the wins than it does about having competition, that’s when you should leave the sport.”
At 195, Fox Lane junior Jon Clune knocked off seventh-seeded Jake O’Brien of Framingham with an overtime win, while Suffern senior Peter Pjetri survived a 3-1 decision over Burnt Hills’ Taylor Russell.
“I wasn’t particularly happy about my performance,” Pjetri said. “I think I could have done a lot better in my match. I had to sit down for a long time before my match started, and that kind of put me at a disadvantage. But overall, it was a win, and it gets me to the second day.”
Suffern’s Peter Pjetri, left, won his 195-pound match with Burnt Hills’ Taylor Russell during the round of 16 at the Eastern States Classic wrestling tournament at Sullivan Community College Jan. 9, 2015.
North Rockland senior Blaise Benderoth, who has placed four times previously at Eastern States and is seeded third at 160 pounds, won his two matches in impressive fashion with a pin and a major decision.
Benderoth’s teammate Anthony Sulla (106 pounds) also advanced to the quarters, as did Kennedy’s Adam Melikian (182) and Mahopac’s Ryan Delahanty (285).