John Jay wrestling is focused on a first-place finish

John Jay wrestling is focused on a first-place finish


John Jay wrestling is focused on a first-place finish


John Jay's Conor Melbourne wrestles during a dual meet against Scarsdale last season.

John Jay’s Conor Melbourne wrestles during a dual meet against Scarsdale last season.

CROSS RIVER – The most improved wrestling team in Section 1 last season was undoubtedly John Jay.

The Indians went from 19th to second place, the biggest jump of any team in the section, and placed second in the Section 1 Dual Meet Championships. They had eight wrestlers earn All-Section honors, six of whom are returning.

But for all of the success and obvious signs of progress, there is still room for growth. Second place is nice, but no one straps on a singlet hoping to be the runner-up.

“Anything short of a section title — dual meet and the regular tournament — is just not what we’re looking for,” junior Conor Melbourne said. “We want to be section champs in everything.”

Melbourne epitomizes John Jay’s collective desire to get to the top.

A sixth-place finish at the prestigious Eastern States Classic last January led many to believe that Melbourne had the potential to make some noise at the state tournament. But he was upset by Brewster’s Grant Cuomo in the Section 1 semifinals and ended up taking third, missing out on his chance to get to Albany.

“I wasn’t even thinking about sectionals,” Melbourne said. “I was thinking more towards the state tournament, and I think that’s what kind of backfired. I looked ahead too early. I think I have to take it more one step at a time this year, but it was definitely a big disappointment to not win a section title last year considering I think I really could have contended with some of the top guys in the state, like I did at Eastern States.”

Melbourne isn’t the only one with his sights set on a section title.

Evan Frank, Matt Kramer, Louie Cree and brothers Bim and Halil Gecaj placed in the top five last season, but came up short of winning it all.

“During the summer, everyone was working hard knowing, ‘Hey, I got fifth last year. I want first this year,’ ” said Frank, who lost to Eastchester’s Nunzio Crowley in the 170-pound final. “There are guys that feel maybe they made one mistake and that led to them losing a match.”

No team in Section 1 brings back as many All-Section wrestlers, which puts the Indians on the short list of teams that can realistically compete for an overall team title. Their depth is comparable to when they last won in 2010.

The wrestlers know it, and they know there’s only one way to improve on a second-place finish.

“Off the mat, everyone on the team is great friends,” Melbourne said. “We’re buddies, but the second we’re out on the mat and practice starts, it’s silent in the room. It’s just guys working hard for two hours and 15 minutes, and it’s a grind. Once we get off the mat, we’re all friends again. But in that little block, you have to be an animal — you have to train hard.”


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