By Drew Budd
After nearly two days of wrestling, Paul Bass had no idea that his Westhampton Beach wrestling team had a shot at winning the Sal DiFazio Holiday Tournament at Half Hollow Hills East High School, which began on Friday and concluded on Saturday. He was caught up in coaching and simply lost track of how each one of his wrestlers was doing.
He was in for a surprise.
Officials started announcing the top five teams just prior to the finals on Saturday afternoon, and after not hearing his team called in the fourth and fifth place spots, Bass just automatically assumed, and was surprised, that his team didn’t make the top five. But when his team was finally mentioned as the leader, ahead of competitive schools such as Bellmore/JFK, Commack, Hills East and Hills West, among others, he was elated.
The Hurricanes went on to have a pair of champions and won the tournament with 254 points, 20.5 points ahead of second-place Commack. Bass couldn’t recall if one of his teams in the past 10 to 15 years has ever won the longstanding DiFazio Tournament, so it could be the first time the Canes have ever won it.
“To win a tournament like that, you focus on the champions, but everybody has to do their part,” he said. “We had a lot of guys wrestleback to place third.
“I was completely shocked about [winning],” Bass added.
Gavin McIntyre (99 pounds) and his older brother Liam (182) each won their weight class, while Tate Buhl (170) and Hunter Burling (160) each placed second. Grant Skala (99), Tyler Skala (113), Jay Montagna (120) and Ryan Darbyshire (132) each placed third. Jack Ciolino (138) and Jackson Hulse (145) placed fourth, and Chris Smith (113) and Lucas Villareale (220) placed sixth.
Bass said other than the team’s two champions, which netted the Canes close to 70 points, there were four crucial matches that were decided in the final seconds, that if they had went differently could have changed the outcome of the tournament. Buhl was losing his semifinal match before taking down Matt Rosenberg of Harborfields to his back in the final seconds to win, 8-4. Montagna was losing his match for third place before scoring five back points with eight seconds remaining to come back and defeat Nick Carino of Harborfields, 8-7. Ciolino, in his consolation semifinal match, scored a reversal in the final three seconds to defeat Walt Whitman’s Logan Matty, 8-7.
Grant Skala had one of the most impressive tournament runs, Bass said. After losing his quarterfinal match in a 4-1 decision to Ryan Eckerle of Commack, Skala won all three of his wrestleback matches to reach the match for third place against Eckerle. Skala won that match 3-1. Bass said he thought Skala had a good shot at winning the Most Outstanding Wrestler title of the tournament due to how well he wrestled, and while he didn’t win it, he was still proud of him. He also was impressed that underclassmen scored the majority of the points for his team.
Westhampton Beach is 1-2 in League VI matches with losses to Miller Place and Islip and a victory over Sayville. The Canes got back to league action this week. After hosting Elwood/John Glenn on Wednesday, they will host Amityville this Friday at 5 p.m. on Alumni Night. Prior to that match the Canes will be honoring their alumni in attendance.
The following day on Saturday, Westhampton Beach will host the Cory Hubbard Duals, expected to start at 9 a.m. and run throughout the day with the championship match expected to begin at 3 p.m. Following the tournament, Westhampton Beach will host its annual Alumni Night event at The Mill Roadhouse for alumni, parents, friends, family and anyone else who supports Westhampton Beach wrestling.