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Lupi’s the Hero as Blue Devils Top State-Ranked Rocky Point, 26-20

With deafening noise engulfing Louis D. Giani Gymnasium and the Huntington wrestling team holding a precarious three point lead, Anthony Lupi erased an early 2-0 deficit and came from-behind-in the final minute to win the decisive match of the meet, as the Blue Devils toppled state ranked Rocky Point, 26-20 before a crowd of 450.

Lupi fell behind early, but battled back to take a 4-2 lead late in the third period.  When the junior was called for stalling with less than 30 seconds remaining and his lead was cut to one point, both sets of coaches and teams, along with the noisy crowd created an atmosphere more reminiscent of the state finals than a regular season dual meet.

Much was riding on the outcome of the contest as both programs are among the best in New York this winter and both have had their sights set on the Suffolk League V crown.  Huntington coach Lou Giani spent several weeks studying scouting reports and figuring out the match-ups that would give his team an edge.

“All you can do is get the kids in the weights were you think they have the best shot,” Giani said.  “The rest is up to them.  Today we came out ready to wrestle and it showed.”

Huntington ran off four straight victories to start the meet.  Morris Romero (171 lbs.) used a modified granby roll in the third period to erase a 4-2 deficit and grab a 7-4 decision, sending the crowd into early delirium.  Sophomore Chris Sandoval (189 lbs.) followed with some late match heroics of his own to take a 3-2 decision as the Blue Devils increased their lead to 6-0.

“Those were some big wins, no doubt about it,” Giani said.  “They gave us momentum and fired the team up.”

Seniors Dashaun Thomas (215 lbs.) and Jose Vasquez (103 lbs.) continued Huntington’s early roll with decisive victories.  Thomas overwhelmed his foe in earning a pin in 4:28 and Vasquez scored a 17-0 technical fall to help the Blue Devils build a 17-0 advantage.

Freshman Nigel McNeil did everything but win, turning in an exceptionally controlled match before falling in sudden death overtime to Suffolk’s top ranked 112 lb. wrestler, Brandon Escobar, 4-2.  However, senior Francisco Pereira gave Huntington its fifth win in the first six matches when he used a relentless bar arm attack and a tight ride in a 6-0 shutout at 119 lbs.

The teams split the next two bouts as Maurice Loadhold (125 lbs.) dropped an 8-5 decision and Omar Santiago (130 lbs.) took an exciting 7-6 verdict.  With Huntington leading 23-6, Rocky Point went on a winning streak of its own, grabbing three decisions and a technical fall over the next four matches to get to within three points in the team score and set the stage for Lupi to be the day’s hero.

“Anthony wrestled a super match,” Giani said.  “He kept at it, even after falling behind.  His conditioning kicked in.  It was one of the most exciting finishes to a meet that we’ve ever had.”

Blue Devil Notes: The first meet held in the current Huntington High School gym was held on January 16, 1959 as the Blue Devils defeated Calhoun, 22-21 . . . Now in his 40th season as a head coach, Lou Giani’s career record is 429-36-1. . . Former Blue Devil state champions Stef Sair and Charlie Gadson were at the meet . . . Two-time state tournament runner-up Jack Sullivan, who is now on the University of Pennsylvania wrestling team, was also in the gym for the meet along with several dozen other alumni.