The East Hampton High School wrestling team placed sixth among the eight schools that vied here Saturday in the Sprig Gardner tournament, an all-day tourney that officially opens Bonac’s wrestling season.
It was expected that Ward Melville and Hauppauge would fight it out for the top spot, and they did, with Hauppauge winding up the winner. Ward Melville, whose Nick Piccininni was voted the tournament’s most outstanding wrestler, placed second.
Trailing the above-named in the team scoring were Westhampton Beach, Riverhead, Bayport-Blue Point, East Hampton, Southampton, and Hampton Bays.
As luck would have it, Lucas Escobar, who, along with Colton Kalbacher, who did not compete Saturday, leads the East Hampton team, had to face Piccininni, a two-time defending state champion, in the 126-pound final.
Piccininni’s bona fides don’t end there: This was the fifth year in a row in which he’s been a Sprig Gardner champion; he won a county championship at 96 pounds as an eighth grader and placed third in the states; he won county and state championships as a freshman at 106, and won county and state championships at 113 last year, as a sophomore.
Using a wrist lock leading into a 2-point tilt with great effect, Piccininni built up an 8-0 lead by the end of the first period of the final. He began the second with a takedown, also worth 2 points, and tacked on two more in the third as the result of a reversal.
“The kid’s a machine,” East Hampton’s coach, Steve Tseperkas, said of Piccininni during a conversation Sunday. “He had that cross wrist-tilt move going in the first two periods. Lucas began to figure it out and counter with some wrist control of his own in the third, which fed his confidence and frustrated Piccininni. They could well meet again in the counties, at 120. They’re both going down to that weight after Christmas.”
It wasn’t the first time that Escobar and Piccininni had met. “Lucas lost 8-0 to him three years ago in the counties,” Bonac’s coach said.
“Lucas should do well this season,” Tseperkas added. “He should have a great opportunity to finish in the top four in the leagues at 120 and to go on to the counties.”
Escobar was one of six place-winners for the Bonackers Saturday. “We would have had 10,” said Tseperkas, “but four of our kids [Finn Hallissey, at 99 pounds, Kevin Boles, at 120, Anthony Pineda, at 152, and Burke Gonzalez, at 285] lost 1-point matches in the first round of the wrestlebacks. . . . Though frankly I’d rather they lose 1-point matches now than in the leagues in February.”
East Hampton’s other place-winners were Axel Alanis, who pinned Ward Melville’s Tom McNulty early in the second period of a wrestleback match to place third at 195; Josh King, a first-year competitor who won two matches and lost two, earning him a fourth-place finish at 285; Luciano Escobar, who placed fifth at 160; Richie Browne, who pinned Hauppauge’s Alex Donarumma to place fifth at 220, and George Calderon, who, as the result of a pin at the hands of Ward Melville’s Robert Sperandeo, placed sixth at 182.
Tseperkas was helped in putting the tournament on by an army of volunteers who included John Ryan Sr. “and his granddaughters,” Steven Tekulsky, the newly elected East Hampton Town justice, who announced the bouts throughout the day, which began at 9 a.m. and ended at about 7, and Eric Kaufman, an East Hampton Hall of Famer who wrestled at Cornell after winning a county championship and placing second in the state tournament.
Walt Stewart, Riverhead’s former coach and a member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, was among the spectators, as was his son, Jim, who for years coached East Hampton.
“I want to thank all the parents who helped,” said Tseperkas, who estimated that about $4,000 had been raised that day with which to send East Hamptoners to wrestling camps.
East Hampton’s first dual meet, a nonleaguer with League 1 powerhouse William Floyd, was to have been held here yesterday. This Saturday, the Bonackers are to wrestle at a team tournament in Hampton Bays.