Riley’s New York State Championship Dreams Come
Shawn Riley’s dreams came true Saturday night when he
won the New York State wrestling championship at SUNY Buffalo’s Alumni
Arena. The victory helped lift Huntington to its second state team
title in three years after the Blue Devils pushed more wrestlers into
the finals than any of the other 108 schools competing.
While Riley (35-0) found glory before the overflow
crowd of 9,789, teammates Shaheim Bradshaw (36-3) and Jack Sullivan
(38-2) lost close matches in the finals.
Riley found himself in the unusual position of
trailing after Steve Brown, a junior from Canton-Potsdam in Section X
scored a takedown on a feet sweep in their 130 lb. contest. “It
shocked me,” Riley said. “I knew then I was going to have to pick
it up.” He did.
The turnaround started when Riley escaped from a
tight ride. “When I got out on him, I knew I could win,” he said.
The Blue Devil star tied it up in the second period with another escape
and went ahead on a swift takedown. Brown escaped to make it 4-3,
and there the score stayed until the final furious flurry.
With about 15 seconds remaining, Brown hit a dump
that sent Riley into near panic mode. “I thought, ‘damn I can’t
believe this,’ but I had a good overhook and stayed with it. After
I got the takedown, he sort of gave up.” The match ended with a
Riley getting a three-point near fall to make it 9-3.
“I pulled it off,” he said. “I came here and I
finished it.” Riley became only the 14th Huntington
wrestler to ever finish a season undefeated and untied. It marked
the 23rd time one of head coach Lou Giani’s wrestlers has won
the New York State championship.
Bradshaw Caught Short
Bradshaw’s attempt to upset heavily favored Trevor
Chinn of Canandaigua Academy in Section V barely failed. For
Chinn, coached by Huntington High School graduate Rich Romeo (’79), the
success marked his second state crown in as many years.
Bradshaw stayed in the 145 lb. match until the last
five seconds. Chinn scored on a takedown just 14 seconds into the
bout but couldn’t put it away, as Bradshaw used a pair of escapes and a
penalty point to keep things close. “I saw a lot of openings
during the match,” he said.
As Bradshaw pursued Chinn around the mat, he ended up
taking a poor shot that ended his hopes of a winning a state title.
“I messed up there at the end,” he said. “I should have taken a
smarter shot. But, I’m happy. No tears. I did my thing and
now I’m going home.”
The huge crowd openly expressed its displeasure at
the result of Sullivan’s match against senior Matt Riddle of Saratoga
Springs in Section II. Only eight seconds into the contest it
appeared Sullivan had scored with a takedown, but the points were never
awarded. It was an ominous sign of things to come.
Sullivan finally broke the deadlock with a second
period escape, but Riddle evened the score, 1-1, by breaking free in the
third period. With the bout tied, the pair went into one-minute
“sudden victory” overtime.
With the 189 lb. state championship on the line, it
again appeared as if Sullivan had secured a takedown. The
Huntington grappler must have thought there was no doubt this time and
seemed to let up. The sequence that followed was surreal for
Sullivan, his coaches and many in the crowd.
The referee didn’t react to the apparent takedown and
when Sullivan eased off his opponent, Riddle came on strong, decisively
taking down the Blue Devil star and putting him to his back for a pin.
The crowd heartily expressed its displeasure. “You can’t let up,”
Giani said. “You can’t stop wrestling.”
Riley opened his second trip to the state
championships with a hard fought 8-3 decision over Joe Whitaker of
Queensbury in Section II. Locked in a 3-3 tie, Riley used a third
period escape to move in front before executing a stunning takedown and
two-point near fall to finish the bout.
The Huntington senior easily turned back
Chris Cartwright of Newburgh in Section IX in the quarterfinals, 6-0
after scoring with a takedown in every period, including a nice ankle
pick 1:15 into the bout and a nifty duck under in the second frame.
The semifinal showdown with Baldwin
senior Andrew Cardella opened with Riley being exceptionally careful,
determined to avoid what often proves to be devastating mistake in the
state tournament. The strategy worked, as Riley worked an effect
offense into his exceptional repertoire to advance to the finals, 5-0.
Bradshaw benefited from a first round bye
and then found himself in the match of his life with Bryan Welsh of
Minisink Valley in Section IX. After fighting off several near
takedowns in a scoreless first period, the Huntington senior escaped for
a point in the second frame and then had to ride out Welsh for all two
minutes of the third period to win, 1-0. “Shaheim really had to
gut that one out,” assistant coach Travis Smith said.
Things were much easier for Bradshaw in a
10-5 semifinal decision over junior Joe Dolson of Cicero North Syracuse.
He opened up, scoring easy takedowns and working his full complement of
Sullivan was his usual methodical self in
the early rounds, pinning Kyle Boots of Massena in Section XI in the
first round in 3:00 The Blue Devil junior chased John Corretti of White
Plains in Section I around the mat to start the match, nailing the
takedown after 55 seconds with a quick defensive spin. Sullivan
padded his lead with an eight point second period before pinning
Corretti in 5:50.
Union-Endicott senior Jonathan Jones
shocked just about everyone in Alumni Arena when he tried to salto
Sullivan in the semifinals, but instead ended up looking at the ceiling
lights, desperately attempting to avoid getting pinned. The
Section IV grappler, got out of his predicament, but Sullivan wasn’t
through scoring and coasted to a 10-5 decision and a spot in the finals.
Pierre Delva wasn’t as fortunate. Eric
Jones of East Syracuse-Minoa soundly beat the senior in the first round,
9-0. A 7-1 consolation round victory over Ed Bordas of Valley
Central in Section IX allowed Delva to move into 10th place
on the Huntington career all-time career win list with 98. He was
knocked out of the tournament in his next match, losing to 7-2 to
Section IV’s Josh Jones, a Horseheads senior.
Delva completed the season with a
30-4 record and went 98-29 lifetime for the Blue Devils. “Pierre
was a big part of the team for four years and we are going to miss him,”
Smith said. “He had a great year and we’re proud of him.”