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Blue Devil Wrestlers Back on Top

Blue Devil wrestling is back on top after sweeping through the first five weight classes and nipping defending Suffolk champion East Islip to claim the team title at the 37th annual holiday tournament last Saturday.  The performance marks a stunning reversal from last winter when Huntington struggled with a young and relatively inexperienced squad.  That was then, this is now.

Damon McQueen (96 lbs.), Jose Vasquez (103), Francisco Pereira (112), Stephan Riley (119) and Guillermo Dominguez (125) each captured weight class crowns to help the Blue Devils topple mighty East Islip and run away from the rest of the eight team field.  “We are a very young team, but we had a great day,” Huntington head coach Lou Giani said.

Four Blue Devil wrestlers finished second, including Marco Lagone (125), Justin Giani (135), Jayson Santiago (160) and Dashaun Thomas (215).  Nigel McNeil (3rd-96), Maurice Loadholt (6th-112), Omar Santiago (3rd-119), Jaime Pereira (4th-130), Matt Vickers (4th-152), Christian Nicky (6th-160), Morris Romero (6th-171) and Allan Hendrickson (3rd-189) also earned places among the top six finishers in each weight class.

 Huntington accumulated 252.5 points in the unofficial team scoring, nearly 100 points more than last year’s total of 155.5, which placed the team fourth in 2005.  East Islip finished second with 246.5 points.

The surprisingly strong result came on a day when school officials dedicated the Louis D. Giani Gymnasium in honor of the coaching legend and unveiled four signs erected around the facility denoting the new name.

The Blue Devils’ performance was reminiscent of their great teams of yesteryear.  McQueen looked sharp in three victories, pinning Roslyn’s Chris Roccotagliato in the quarterfinals in 1:11, turning back teammate Nigel McNeil in the semifinals, 7-1 before shutting out North Babylon’s Tom Bennett in the championship bout, 8-0. 

Vasquez was equally impressive, including a 0:17 second fall in the quarterfinals and an 18-1 semifinal decision over East Islip’s Nick Ventiere.  The Huntington junior pinned Massapequa’s Eric Kaufman in the finals in 2:36.

“Damon and Jose each started off the season with great matches,” Huntington assistant coach Travis Smith said.  “They’re working hard and we expect to see continued improvements each week.  They’re talented and if they keep working hard they’ll go far.”

Seeded first at 112 lbs., junior Francisco Pereira is coming off a third place finish in last year’s Suffolk Division I tournament and looking to challenge for the county crown.  After picking up a 0:19 second quarterfinal round pin, the junior edged Northport’s Ryan DeVaney, 10-7 and took a 4-0 decision in the finals over Central Islip’s James Guzman.  “Francisco was pushed a little bit and maintained control of his matches,” Giani said. 

The tournament marked a return to competition for Riley, who sat out last year after placing sixth in Suffolk as a sophomore.  He won three matches, including a 7-2 decision over junior Matt Sears of Northport in the finals.  Dominguez also looked tough, grabbing a pair of decisions and a pin en route to the 125 lb. title. 

Huntington and East Islip far outdistanced the rest of the field, as Massapequa (164 points), Port Jervis (157), Northport (111.5), Central Islip (94.5), North Babylon (82) and Roslyn (53) trailed the leaders. 

The Blue Devils return to the mats this Saturday (Dec. 16) when the team travels to the Port Jervis tournament for a daylong competition.