They only have one event each year in the high school building, their annual Herricks Invitational Wrestling Tournament, which has kick started their seasons since its inception back in ’72. The team considers it to be an Away event even though they host it, set it up, and break it down.
Banished from the high school building in ’80 – allegedly due to space limitations – the Highlander Matmen made their home in the just closed Herricks Junior High School building now referred to as the Herricks Community Center. Since then, the team has made that location a Mecca of sorts in the wrestling community at-large. A tremendous number of all-American, all-state, all-county, and all-conference wrestlers from around the tri-state region (and this year add Rhode Island into that mix) have competed here.
Tomorrow’s 20th Annual New Year’s Wrestling Invitational will include wrestling teams from Hewlett, MacArthur, and Plainview from Nassau County (New York State Section VIII), Southampton, Babylon, Copiague, and Smithtown Christian from Suffolk County (New York State Section XI), Suffern from Westchester County (New York State Section I), St. Anthony’s (CHSAA), and Mount Hope from Rhode Island. Action is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. in the Community Center’s Muller Arena.
Okay. So how about last weekend? The Highlander Grapplers don’t leave much slack time on their schedule. They traveled up to the North Shore to compete in the Locust Valley Tournament. This 11-team event featured Brooklyn Tech the PSAL D-1 team champion, host Locust Valley the defending Section VIII D-2 County team champion, and Oyster Bay the Section VIII defending D-2 County runner-up team, plus Glen Cove, Valley Stream Central, Hicksville, MacArthur, Levittown Division Avenue, Stony Brook, and Northport.
The Highlanders had by far the smallest squad entered (9 varsity wrestlers), but they finished in fifth place as a team with six place winners (four finalists, three champions).
Senior co-captain Andrew Farrell won gold at 120 by pinning Hicksville’s all-conference Cameron Cipolla in the quarterfinals and Brooklyn Tech’s Devon Hoyte in the semifinals. Hoyte was fourth in the PSAL last year. Farrell throttled Hicksville’s All-Conference Jorge Quintanilla by a 9-0 major decision in the finals.
Senior John “CP” Temperino had a pin and two decision victories on his way to the championship at 152. This made Temperino’s second straight tournament finals appearance, and he is now fourth on the team with 14 varsity wins so far despite missing the first tournament of the season.
Corey Iuculano fought his way out of the pack at 126. He pinned his first opponent in the first period of his preliminary round match. Then he defeated the fifth seed from Northport in the quarterfinals. His semifinal match was a barn-burner against top-seeded Cassidy Exum of Oyster Bay. Exum was last year’s Section VIII D-2 county champion.
Iuculano broke a tie in the final seconds to score an impressive 8-3 decision win. Iuculano’s solid 7-4 victory in the finals over Stony Brook’s Hunter Hulse was equally impressive. Hulse was last year’s Section XI D-2 county champion. This win was certainly frosting on Corey’s birthday cake. His work with assistant coach Mike Miller is really paying off, but we’re not sure how many more body parts coach can sacrifice for the cause.
Senior co-captain Mike Vespe took second place at 145 with a pin in the quarterfinals and a 9-0 major decision victory over Oyster Bay’s Vincent Catala in the semis on his way to the finals. Catala was Nassau County D-2 runner-up last year. As well as Vespe performed last year, he has been adjusting his style and has become even more successful. He has three second places and a third place finish in four tournament competitions and he is undefeated in dual match competition so far this year on the strength of 18 wins (six by pins and two major decisions).
Mike “BA” Lopez and Solomon “NR” Aziz shared third place at 285. Both Highlanders were 2-1 on the day, and both have developed a habit of placing in tournament action. “BA” has won four places and “NR” has three. The Big Man Club has been coming through under the daily guidance of Middle School Coach, Varsity Assistant Leo Kouroupos.
Joe DeVito (jr-120) and Jason Liarikos (jr-152) have been making solid progress. They both added victories to the team’s totals enabling the Highlanders to finish as high as they did. Meanwhile, freshmen Andrew Chu and Anthony “Mini Mad Dog” Polo were undefeated in Second-Man competition. Polo (21-6) had two more pins raising his total to 15. Chu (14-6) picked up his 10th pin and a 19-2 technical fall victory.
Coach Kouroupos is spearheading a Herricks Wrestling Alumni Reunion gathering set up for Sunday, January 20th from noon to 4:00 PM at the Davenport Press Restaurant in Mineola. Direct your inquiries to Coach Leo Kouroupos at the Middle School.