PEARL RIVER – Based on the first month of the season, it would be silly to continue to label North Rockland as a program that’s in the midst of rebuilding.
The Red Raiders belong back in the conversation as one of the best teams in Section 1, but they may want to keep playing the underdog card. They’re wrestling like a team that’s hungry to prove itself, which has led to this recent resurgence.
“When we’re expected to lose, that’s just more incentive for us,” sophomore Jake Breyer said. “We’re not rebuilding — we’re built now. We’re definitely not done yet, but I feel like we’ve come a long way from what we were expected to do.”
Thursday’s 41-30 win over Pearl River, the Division 2 dual meet champion, was yet another signature moment for North Rockland. This came exactly one week after the Red Raiders upset rival Suffern in the semifinals of the Division 1 Dual Meet tournament.
“We came in thinking it was going to kind of be like Suffern, where it could go either way,” junior Mike Corlette said. “As you could see, it was pretty close in the end, but we pulled through.”
The key for North Rockland was limiting the damage against the Pirates’ middleweights, which feature three former section champs in Jack Chesman, Sean McGarvey and Anthony Malfitano, as well as a strong class of upcoming sophomores.
Corlette (120 pounds), Breyer (126), Justin Moronta (138) and John Uce (145) won crucial swing matches, while Mike Criscione (152) and Chris Cruger (170) kept it close enough in losses against Chesman and Malfitano, respectively, to avoid a big deficit.
“I knew for us to win tonight, we had to keep their bonus points off the board,” North Rockland coach Jeff Swick said. “They have some really talented guys, and a couple of them matched up with our better wrestlers. We were able to only lose by decision. They were in the match, fighting hard and they didn’t make any mistakes to get put to their back.”
By the time they got to 182 pounds, the Red Raiders were trailing by a manageable margin of 24-17 and ready to make their run. Wins from Tim Henion (182), David Barreles (195) and Pat Fenton (220) put them on top, setting up Joe Henion (99) and C.J. McMonegal (106) to seal the win with a couple of pins.
Joe Henion and McMonegal remain unbeaten and represent the strength of North Rockland’s lineup.
“The old saying is, ‘Steel sharpens steel,’ ” Swick said. “C.J. is a high-level wrestler and Joe is in the room battling with him. It’s certainly showing this year because he’s made a huge improvement since last year.”
The win sends the Red Raiders into the holiday break on a high note, but they know there is still much to be done if they want to regain the status of the teams that won back-to-back Section 1 titles in 2013-14.
“I remember hearing about (former wrestlers) Blaise (Benderoth) and (Anthony) Sulla,” Corlette said. “They were dominant, but then they left. We really had to step it up. North Rockland is pretty prideful, and we just want to be on top.”