PLEASANTVILLE – This sophomore class from Pearl River is blossoming right before our eyes.
The Pirates rolled out a lineup which featured eight 10th-graders and only two seniors for the Section 1 Dual Meet Championships on Thursday, but many of the underclassmen performed like savvy veterans. With All-State senior Anthony Malfitano sitting out due to a sprained MCL, their efforts earned Pearl River a chance to repeat as Division 2 (small schools) tournament champions next week.
“We have a really, really young team,” 120-pound sophomore Dante Simeti said after a 47-32 win over Pleasantville. “We knew it was going to be a battle. It was great that we were able to get some pins when we needed them and win some close matches.”
After dispatching Irvington in the quarterfinals with a 76-9 rout, the Pirates were matched up with an improving Pleasantville squad in the semis. Three straight wins from the Panthers’ lightweights — Michael Balducci (99 pounds), Nayshawn Marks (106) and Len Balducci (113) — put Pearl River behind 16-15 before Simeti took the mat.
He fell into a 5-2 hole, but picked it up late in the match and pinned Carlos DeJesus in the third period.
“I knew I was going to turn it on, and that’s ultimately what I did. I was able to make that adjustment,” Simeti said. “Momentum is a huge thing when it comes to dual meets, so getting six (points) there was big for us.”
Seb Senande followed with a pin at 126 pounds to put Pleasantville back on top, but that’s when the Pirates reminded everyone why they’re the defending champs.
It was another sophomore, 132-pounder Dylan Urban, who started a streak of six straight wins.
“The middle of our lineup is the strength,” Urban said. “If we’re losing points with the lightweights and the heavyweights, the rest of us have to step it up.”
The Panthers bumped up one of their better wrestlers, Victor Perlleshi, from 126 pounds to 132 to take a shot at Urban. He held his own in a back-and-forth contest, but Urban prevailed with a 9-8 decision.
The key swing match was followed by wins from Emmet McCann (138), Dylan Conway (145), Sean McGarvey (152) and Jack Chesman (160), turning a one-point deficit into a decisive 47-22 lead.
“I thought we could get them (in the heavyweights) a little, but when we lost those two up top, that put us behind the eight-ball,” Pleasantville coach Bob Bernarducci said. “I know they have solid kids in the middle, so we tried to move our better kids around to try and get some wins there.”
Pearl River will travel to wrestle Putnam Valley for the championship on Wednesday. It will be the third year in a row that the two teams have met for the title, with the Panthers winning in 2014 before the Pirates took trophy last year.
“We’re the reigning champs, and this is big for us,” Urban said. “We’ve only got three seniors this year and they’re giving everything that they’ve got.”