By: Nancy Haggerty
PEARL RIVER – If not for a two-point reversal with four seconds left in his semifinal match, Kyle Wanamaker wouldn’t have qualified for his first wrestling final.
On top of that, he wouldn’t have later won one of two MVP awards given at Monday’s 30th Annual Michael O’Connell Tournament.
The Nyack senior, whoi has wrestled since seventh grade, beat Tuxedo’s Liam Heslin 3-2 with that reversal, then pinned North Rockland’s Tim Henion to win the 160-pound division.
“In the preseason, I finally gave 100 percent to conditioning, and the results really do show off,” said Wanamaker, who was named tourney MVP for those weighing 152-285 pounds.
The same honor in the 99- to 145-pound range wen to 99-pound champion Trey Wardlaw of East Ramapo. Wardlaw, who pinned Luca Errico of Bryan Hills in the finals, is 17-0 this season.
The win was especially sweet both because Wardlaw finished second last year and because it helped East Ramapo win the overall title in the 16-squad tourney. East Ramapo had 167.5 points. Host Pearl River was second with 133, and Washingtonville was third with 98.
East Ramapo had such a good day that the 152-pound final was between teammates Rashone Simpson and Shatir Henry. Henry, who was upset last year after failing to make the O’Connell finals, pulled out a last-second 4-3 win over Simpson.
Henry said he and Simpson are “pretty much the same” but after winning, he said Simpson, “He’s number one in my book.”
Of his squad’s win, Henry added, “I’m just happy for the team and everyone who worked hard on the mat.”
While East Ramapo worked on the mats, Loretta O’Connell worked selling food and beverages to wrestlers and their fans. The former 42-year Pearl River resident, who has lived in Florida for the past seven years, never misses the tournament that’s named after her late son, who was an ardent sports fan and a 1981 Pearl River grad. Michael died at age 20 of muscular dystrophy.
Three of O’Connell’s four other children and five of eight grandkids attended the tournament, including her son, Jimmy, a former star Pirate Wrestler.
This season’s crop of Pearl River wrestlers did well, with James Kelly winning at 120 pounds and Jake Kurzhals at 132.
Other local winners included Harrison’s Jay Martins (106); Tappan Zee’s Brendan Henry (113); East Ramapo’s Anthony Romero (126); and Marcus Stroud (170); Nyack’s Adonis Alcime (182); and East Ramapo’s Leo Pamphile (220) and Jahkem Collins-Martinez (285).