WEST NYACK - As the only remaining Division II team left in Rockland, Nanuet is the smallest wrestling school in the county. However, there was nothing little about what the Golden Knights accomplished in Saturday's Rockland County wrestling championships at Clarkstown South High School.
Nanuet enjoyed a big day on the mat, winning its first county team title in 40 years.
"It's only happened one time, and we've been thinking about this the whole entire year," Nanuet senior Jalin Badillo said. "Every single day, we're reminded how only one group of guys got to do it and it was so long ago. For us to finish first now, in a time like this, and a bunch of new guys who haven't had a real season since 2020, it's amazing. I wouldn't want it any other way."
Badillo was one of two individual champions for Nanuet. He defeated Suffern's Jacob Skaggs, 6-2, in the 189-pound finals. Eighth-grade teammate John Parisi captured the first county championship of the day when the Golden Knights' 102-pounder defeated Suffern's Bobby Brophy, 6-0.
While Badillo and Parisi got to finish on top in their respective weight classes, it was a strong showing overall for the Golden Knights, who had a total of 14 place-finishers, including eight medalists that landed in the top three.
"It says that we work hard, Coach makes it clear that everyone has a part," Badillo said. "You go out there by yourself, there's one guy in front of you, but every single match you have to do your part for your team's victory. We proved that, and I think we proved being the only the small-school in the entire county that we proved our dominance over the rest of the county."
It was a close race at the top, with Nanuet scoring 201 team points. The Golden Knights were followed by Suffern (198), Pearl River (194.5), Clarkstown South (130) and Tappan Zee (121).
Nanuet coach Sean Conklin hopes that his team will continue to build off of this performance moving forward. Since losing to Edgemont in the Section 1 Division II Dual Meet Tournament finals, the Golden Knights haven't lost a dual meet since. Now, this latest achievement will help fuel them moving into the crucial homestretch of the wrestling season.
"Ever since the middle of December, these guys have been wrestling really hard," Conklin said. "They have a little of a chip on their shoulder, and they feel like they have something to prove still. We're gonna continue to carry this through all the way to sections."
North Rockland's DePolito wins third-straight Rockland County title
Last season was forgettable for the sport of wrestling, with nearly half of Section 1 teams sidelined from competing in the sport and the rest limited in official matches. COVID-19 also led to the cancellation of tournaments.
Saturday, though, is a day that North Rockland junior Bobby DePolito won't forget. He picked up from where he left off in the previous Rockland tournament in 2020: on top.
DePolito captured his third-consecutive county championship, defeating Nanuet's Joe Parisi, 8-2, in the 138-pound finals. The win also marked his 100th career victory.
"Very special moment, especially having it with the team," DePolito said. "I'd been on the team for a while. It was very exciting. I knew I really needed to win, that's really it. A lot of pressure, just needed to win."
Pearl River's Veirun named Most Outstanding Wrestler
Aidan Veirun, Pearl River's 132-pounder, was one of the Journal News/lohud.com featured Section 1 breakout junior wrestlers, and he continued his big season by capturing a Rockland County title and the tournament's Most Outstanding Wrestler honors.
"Just working hard in the room every day and it finally paid off," Veirun said. "It feels good."
Veirun won each of his matches by pinfall. He topped off his title run with a second-period pin of returning all-section and reigning 2020 county champion Seth Frendel of Clarkstown North.
While it was a big day for Veirun, it was a strong showing for the Pirates overall. They finished third as a team, but had the most individual champions with four.
"We work hard every day, and it shows," Veirun said. "Coach pushes us every day, best-conditioned team, so it all paid off. Even though we'd been Division II the past couple of years, people probably thought we weren't gonna be as good (up at Division I), but we're hanging in there with everyone."
Veirun, the Most Outstanding Wrestler, highlighted Pearl River's title-winning quartet. Teammates Kevin O'Sullivan (152 pounds), Luke Failing (172) and Jack Raspanti (215) also finished on top.
It was an impressive championship haul for Suffern. The Mounties, who didn't have any returning all-section wrestlers from 2020, made plenty of noise throughout the county tournament. They finished second in team standings, and they were led by Rockland champs Max Kochergin (145), Toby Coombs (160) and Nick Romagnoli (285).
Romagnoli was given the Sol Gordon Memorial Award, which is awarded to the wrestler with the most pins in the fewest amount of time. He won each of his matches in under a minute, including a 20-second pin in the finals over Clarkstown North's Justin Smoot for the 285-pound title.
Tappan Zee's Shane Acheson posted an impressive victory against the Journal News/lohud.com's top-ranked Division I 118-pounder, North Rockland's Joe Yon, in the finals. Yon was undefeated against Section 1 opponents entering Saturday. Acheson pinned Yon in the third period.
Outside of DePolito, North Rockland had another county champ in freshman Amari Payton, who won the 110-pound crown. Clarkstown South's Justin Termine ascended to the top on his home turf, representing the Vikings with a 126-pound county championship.
This article originally appeared on Rockland/Westchester Journal News: Wrestling: Nanuet wins first Rockland County team title in 40 years