Wrestling Team Pins 31-0 Dual Record; And Wins 1st-ever State Dual Title, State Tourney Title, Nassau County Dual & Tourney Titles


Kieran Baisley, Sports Editor

The 2017-18 wrestling team added its name to the winners’ list in this historic year of Wantagh sports achievements. The Warriors went an incredible 31-0 in dual meets, a new Long Island record, and won the first-ever New York State dual meet title. They were led by five champs to capture their 7th Nassau County (Section VIII) Tournament title in the past 8 years, February 11, at Hofstra University.

The Warriors topped off perfection when they won states February 24 in Albany with 86.5 points; 26.5 more than the best Suffolk team, Eastport South Manor. Jonathan Loew (51-1) won the state title at 195 by first period fall in the final, Justin Vines (51-2) took second at 132 after being edged 3-2 in triple O.T. on a controversial call; and a pair of sophomores, Josiah Encarnacion (106) and Matthew Rogers (170), placed fourth.

At the counties, Wantagh scored 291 points to second-place Massapequa’s 264.5. What’s even more incredible is that the team did this after No. 1-seeded senior captain Charles Maier suffered an injury in the quarterfinals. Maier, a three-time all-county wrestler, was unable to continue in the tournament and vie for a fourth all-county finish. Wantagh also didn’t have two other top senior wrestlers, Gavin Casey and Thomas Rohan, who both were injured during football and missed the entire season.

Wantagh also topped Massapequa 38-27 in the Nassau County dual meet tournament in a hard-fought match to take its first title there since 2014.

The Warriors’ five county champs qualified for states. The champs included Matthew Rogers (170), “Champion of Champions” James Langan (182), Jonathan Loew with his second straight title (195), Josiah Encarnacion with his second straight title (106), and Justin Vines with an incredible third title (132). Also placing at counties to make all county were Aidan Araoz, 2nd at 113, who made states as a wild card; Benny Rogers, 4th at 99; C.J. Ahern, 6th at 145; Joe Conklin 4th at 160; Christian Encarnacion, 4th at 120; and Joe Russo, 6th at 138.

The Warriors are led by coaches: Paul Gillespie, head coach of Wantagh, who is in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame; Reggie Jones, assistant head coach, 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 wrestler at Wantagh and Rhode Island College. There’s also assistants and former Wantagh wrestlers Ray Hanley, Sr. and Brian Hooker.

Their perfect season has led WIN Magazine to rank the Warriors 17th in the United States.

While there are a number of seniors on this team, sophomores Rogers and Josiah Encarnacion will have a chance to be three-time county champs. In addition, there are the Moore brothers, Bobby and Joe; and Christian Encarnacion, who expect to lead the Warriors next year.

One more accomplishment in this extraordinary season was a second place finish in the Eastern States Classic, with over 100 top teams from several states. The only team to top Wantagh was Pennsylvania prep school Wyoming Seminary, which features post-grad recruits and is ranked in the top 5 in the nation. Vines and Loew each placed second, losing close matches to Wyoming wrestlers. Josiah Encarnacion placed 5th and James Langan placed 8th.

The third-place team at Eastern States was Minisink Valley, the team Wantagh beat in the NYSPHSAA Dual Meet Championship final in Syracuse, 39-28.

At the county qualifier tournament, Wantagh had 9 champs: Encarnacion, Araoz, Maier, Vines, Conklin, Rogers, Langan, Loew and Ryan Alesius, who had a great year for the Warriors wrestling at 285 pounds. Also placing and qualifying for the county tournament were Benny Rogers, Thomas Bonasera, Noah Corwin, Bobby Moore, Joseph Moore, Joe Russo, C.J. Ahern, Drew Donaghy, Anthony Grogan, Matthew Soethout, and Giancarlo Damiami, who came within one match of placing at counties.

In addition, Wantagh’s lone female wrestler, Katrynna Jackowicz, competed at the first-ever New York state girls’ tournament and took second at 148 pounds.

Loew finished his career with 232 wins, the most in Nassau County history. Vines finished third in Wantagh history with 202 wins. Both wrestlers had three all-state finishes and each captured a state title. Loew will attend Cornell next year, one of the top D I programs in the nation. It has produced 13 national champs since 2003, with several being from New York. Vines will continue his career at LIU Post, a Division II power. Both will now attempt to become collegiate All-Americans, achieved by only two Wantagh wrestlers, Tom Ryan (current head coach of Ohio State) for Iowa and Steven Bonanno for Hofstra.