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Blue Devils Wrestlers in Biggest Turnaround Ever at Kohl Tourney

Call it a stunning reversal.  In the biggest one year turnaround in the long history of the Kohl tournament at Suffern High School, the Blue Devil wrestling team went from a ninth place finish last winter to a first place showing this past weekend as 11 Huntington grapplers finished among the top four in their respective weight classes.

The Blue Devils easily ran away from the 12-team field, outscoring runner-up Monroe-Woodbury by nearly 40 points, 185 to146.5.  Huntington pushed seven wrestlers into the finals and Jose Vasquez (96 lbs.), Francisco Pereira (112) and Allan Hendrickson (171) emerged as champions.  “It was a great showing,” assistant coach Travis T. Smith said.

Nigel McNeil (96 lbs.), Stephan Riley (119), Justin Giani (130) and Jimmie Garrett (135) each advanced to the finals before dropping their championship bouts.  Giani lost heartbreaker to Matt Buchan of New Jersey’s Woodbridge High School, 6-5.

In the finals, Pereira edged Djimitry Georges of East Ramapo in a hard fought bout, 5-2.  Hendrickson earned a thrilling 9-7 overtime victory over Woodbridge’s Craig Battista.

Damon McQueen (3rd-103 lbs.), Omar Santiago (4th125), Guillermo Dominguez (140) and Dashaun Thomas (3rd-215) also placed among the top four in the competition.

“Everyone wrestled hard and we were very pleased with the effort the team turned in,” Smith said.  Trailing the Blue Devils and Monroe-Woodbury in the standings were Warwick (144 points), Suffern (136.5), North Rockland (132), Port Jervis (124), Woodbridge (115), Cornwall (94.5), Ramsey-NJ (90.5), Sleepy Hollow (58), Nyack (57) and East Ramapo (35.5).

Last January the Blue Devils slumped to a ninth place finish in the Kohl tournament with just 94 points.  It was the lowest finish Huntington has ever experienced in 27 years in the competition and the result of fielding a young team and losing several wrestlers to injuries and other pitfalls. 

The Blue Devils have been competing in the Kohl tournament since January 1981.  In the first 24 years the team won 14 titles and was runner-up in the standing ten other times.  However, in 2005 Huntington slumped to fourth place and last year dropped to an all-time low point total.  Now they are back traditional territory.

A day earlier, the Blue Devils easily toppled Comsewogue in a league dual meet, 63-11.  Seven Huntington wrestlers picked up pins, including Vasquez, who won his 103 lb. match in just 34 seconds.  The victory was head coach Lou Giani’s 399th with the Huntington program.  Counting a two-year stint at Eastern Military Academy, the Hall of Fame coach now boasts a lifetime mark of 419-34-1.