Wantagh Pins Long Beach for Nassau County Division I Championship


Nolan Foley, Sports Editor

After dropping two dual meets to Long Beach the Wantagh wrestling team defeated the Marines in the 60th annual Nassau County Championship tournament at Hofstra, February 11-12. It was the Warriors sixth county championship in the past seven years.

Wantagh broke Long Beach’s 2016 scoring record with 343.5 points. Long Beach was second with 328 points.

Wantagh had seven wrestlers reach the finals, including two all-Wantagh finals’ bouts. At 99 pounds Josiah Encarnacion defeated Bobby Moore, 6-2, in the first all-Wantagh match up and then in the second at 126 pounds Justin Vines pinned Michael Killard. Jonathan Loew was the third Wantagh champion at 160 pounds.

Christian Encarnacicon (113) and Gavin Casey (285) were also finalists with Casey losing in triple overtime on a penalty point. Wantagh had another eight wrestlers achieve all county by finishing in the top 6.

Through mid-January Wantagh and Long Beach had grappled three times. The Warriors topped the Marines at Madison Square Garden taking first to Long Beach’s second, in December. Then at Long Beach’s Battle of the Beach the Warriors finished third, behind champion Long Beach and second-place Monroe Woodbury (upstate). Finally in the unofficial state championship at the U/E Duals just outside of Binghamton, the Warriors met Long Beach in the semifinals but fell in a close 32-29 dual meet. Long Beach captured the title while Wantagh took third. The Warriors finished with a 24-2 dual record with both losses coming to Long Beach.

Now to introduce the team’s leaders individually, Mike Killard (132 pounds), record of 29-3 and Larry Baker (195), (20-6) both senior captains. Larry Baker, also a soccer captain this fall, was 3rd in the conference in 2016 and 2015, and 4-year varsity member of the team. Mike Killard, 4th in the county in 2016 and 3rd in 2015. He is a 4-year Varsity member and finished 3rd in the NYS Freestyle tournament in 2016.

Four more captains on the team are Nick Coppola (senior), Pat Smith (senior), Justin Vines (junior), and Jonathan Loew (junior). They share in the team’s leadership. Coppola (182) is a 4-year varsity wrestler. Coppola, (21-5) placed 6th in the county last year. Pat Smith (285), (10-3) also a 4-year varsity member, 5th in the county last year. Smith has showed great courage in wrestling though a number of injuries this season.

Justin Vines (126), a junior, sports the gaudiest resume on the team. He was 4th in state 2016, 1st in the county 2016, 2nd 2015, 1st place NYS 2016 in Freestyle and Greco, 2016 NYS Fargo Team, and a 5-year varsity member.

Jonathan Loew (160) is the youngest of three brothers, all of whom were outstanding for Wantagh. His oldest brother Matt was a 2-time state finalist. Jonathan has a record of 25-0, and a career record of 166-32 with 82 pins, 7th in State in 2014, took 2nd place 2014 in the county, 6th in 2015, not to mention 1st place NYS Freestyle / Greco in 2016, and in 2012 he won the last and deciding match in the U/E Duals to help Wantagh win the Dual Meet State Championships in overtime vs Islip. He is a 5-year varsity member

As talented as these young men are, credit the coaches who trained them to be responsible and hardworking: Paul Gillespie, head coach of Wantagh HS, is in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame; Reggie Jones, assistant head coach, is also in the National Hall of Fame; Ray Hanley Jr, assistant varsity coach, former wrestler at Wantagh and Rhode Island College; Todd Bloom, assistant varsity Wantagh coach, former head coach at Brooklyn Tech HS, and a former wrestler at Wantagh HS and Rhode Island College. And there’s also assistants and former Wantagh wrestlers Ray Hanley Sr and Brian Hooker.

Wantagh has been one of the best teams in New York for nearly a decade. Last year the Warriors finished third in the Nassau County tournament ending an astounding run of 5-straight county titles.

In mid January seven Wantagh wrestlers competed in the Eastern States Classic, which can be tougher than the NY state tournament in some weight classes. Of the seven wrestlers who competed, Vines placed 2nd, Loew 3rd, Killard 4th, and Josiah Encarnacion 5th.

This incredible team has a number of other top wrestlers including: Josiah Encarnacion (99 pounds), Aiden Aaroz (106), Bobby Moore (106), Christian Encarnacion (112), Charles Maier (120), Kyle Schairer (126), Nick Errico (132), Thomas Rohan (145), Matthew Rogers (145), Sean Ryder (152), Robert Marshall (152) James Langan (160), Joe Conklin (170) and Gavin Casey (220).