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Steve Meehan
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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.”

Sullivan Falls

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.” 

Earlier Rounds

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 moves.

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.”