ALBANY – The state title he has always longed for was there for the taking, but before Mamaroneck senior Youssif Hemida could capture it, he had to wait for Vin Feola’s nose to stop bleeding.
“I never, ever saw that,” Hemida said. “It was really strange, but it is what it is. That shouldn’t affect me.”
As Hemida stood on the mat, waiting for the 220-pound Division 1 state final to start on Saturday at the Times Union Center, the Walt Whitman coaching staff worked to stop Feola’s mysterious bloody nose.
But once the match started, none of it matter. Hemida has owned Feola in the past year — beating him a handful of times during the offseason and twice more during the high school season — and he had his way once again with a 5-2 decision for the championship.
“It all didn’t matter until today, until that last match,” Hemida said. “All of the times that I beat him didn’t matter, because if he came out on top, he would have won when it counted. I just continued to show my dominance over him.”
The future Maryland Terrapin became the first wrestler from Mamaroneck to ever win a state title, doing so after missing the majority of his sophomore and junior seasons due to a neck injury.
“Words can’t even describe it,” Hemida said. “Not being able to wrestle, then to come in this year, have an undefeated record and win a state title, it’s the icing on the cake. It feels so great.”
Hemida was the only champion from Section 1, but three others reached the finals.
North Rockland senior Blaise Benderoth defeated Hauppauge’s Chris Mauriello, a defending state champion, with a 3-0 decision in the semis and took an early lead in the 160-pound Division 1 final.
But a four-point move from Hilton’s Louie Deprez at the end of the first period turned out to be the difference in the match, with Benderoth losing a 7-3 decision.
“I’ll definitely look back on it with a smile on my face,” Benderoth said of his high school career. “I’m not going to let my last match define who I was and who I am. I just have to keep my head up, remember what I’ve done, and remember what people have done for me.”
While Hemida and Benderoth entered the tournament as No. 1 seeds, the biggest surprise was Pearl River junior Jake Kurzhals.
He came in unseeded in Division 2 at 126 pounds, but upset the No. 2, 3 and 7 seeds on his way to the finals.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” said Kurzhals after losing to two-time champ Kellen Devlin of Amherst in the finals. “I just knew it would be a tough match every time, so I just tried to give it my all. … The goal for next year is to come out with a state title.”
John Jay-East Fishkill’s Jay Albis lost a heartbreaking 3-2 overtime decision against John Arceri of Huntington in the 113-pound Division 1 final.
Youssif Hemida of Mamaroneck celebrates after defeating Vincent Feola of Walt Whitman in the 220 pound final at the New York State High School wrestling championships at the Times Union Center in Albany Feb. 28, 2015.
Nine other Section 1 wrestler placed in the top six, led by Suffern senior Peter Pjetri, who took third at 195 pounds in Division 1.
“After I lost in the quarters, I just put it in my head that I’m going to take third,” Pjetri said. “I’m not coming here to lose and not place, or place really low, like fifth or sixth. I said to myself, ‘I’m taking third. I worked way too hard to come and lose.’ “
Putnam Valley senior Willie Messinger (170 pounds in Division 2) and Mahopac junior Mike DiNardo (182 in Division 1) each placed fourth, while Eastchester junior Nunzio Crowley (170 in Division 1) and Horace Greeley senior Brock Cvijanovich (220 in Division 1) each took fifth.
The top five in each weight class earn All-State honors.