Hampton Bays’ lineup looks different, and not because of new additions or haircuts. Alongside the mat during Hampton Bays’ 49-36 loss to Port Jefferson January 9, every wrestler was beaming with excitement, cheering on their teammates, and appreciating their matches.
“The culture here is changing,” said head coach Mike Lloyd. “What we’re doing is working. We have some guys who are really dedicated to the sport and are looking to succeed, looking to make a name for themselves, represent the school and their weight class; and it’s bringing us together as a team and creating something that is efficient and I think will be very successful.”
The Baymen didn’t have to wait long because some accomplishments have already come. Despite the loss to Port Jeff snapping an undefeated League VIII streak and handed the Royals the conference crown, Hampton Bays finished 4-1 in League VIII and currently boast a 6-12 record with three nonleague games left, marking one of the most successful seasons in years. Last year, Hampton Bays finished 1-3 in league play and 4-15 overall, and went 1-11-1 overall a year prior.
“It’s been a while since we made it this far,” junior co-captain Nick Pacheco said. “This year has been great and it’s truly been an honor being a part of this team.”
The 126-pounder and his junior 138-pound co-captain Nick Corredor are not only relishing in the fact that they’ve improved so much in the league standings. They’re heading to the Suffolk County Division II team tournament for the first time in school history. The tournament launched three years ago.
“We started off with a very young team this year, and I think everyone stepped up, and did what they had to do to get the team to that championship-level we wanted to be at,” Corredor said. “We faced some very tough teams and did what we had to do.”
The senior night meet against Port Jeff came down to where the strength lied, splitting up like two separate matches between the lightweights and heavyweights. Nick Morea at 145 pounds pinned Nick Kim at 2:22 to start the scoring. Alex Velasquez followed with his own pin at 152 pounds, as did William Krivickas (170), Joseph Gaudiello (182), Jesse Riscen (220), and Kevin Eras (285). Lloyd said he was proud of how his boys wrestled against Port Jeff despite the loss, saying that he thinks a lot of it came down to nervous energy with the stakes being so high. Corredor looked at it like a learning lesson.
“It was a tough loss, but it was a wakeup call — we gave to work a lot harder for next year,” he said. “And even though we lost, we made a statement, put Hampton Bays back on the map. Every single team is going to have to keep an eye out for us. They’re not ready for the talent that we have.”
That talent was instilled partly by Corredor and Pacheco, who went to offseason training camps and brought back with them a wealth of knowledge and confidence.
“The offseason camp helped me learn new moves and perfect them,” Pachecho said. “It’s really hard to implement them throughout a match because not everyone wrestles the same way, but it really truly helps me get a feeling for what a guy is going to do and gets me prepared to shoot, stall, or defend.”
“It also teaches you to not be afraid of who you’re going against,” Corredor said. “You’re always going to have a chance if you try your hardest during a match.”
The 126-pounder said he’d enjoyed working with the underclassmen because he’s hoping that not only will they be prepared in case someone gets sick or hurt, but thinks back to the situation he hopes to be in as a freshman.
“I want to help push the team forward,” he said. “With every single thing I’ve learned, I tried to teach it to everyone and make sure everyone is on the same page, because I don’t want to be selfish, or the only one improving. I want us all to grow at the same pace, to grow as one.”
Hampton Bays and Port Jeff are the two League VIII teams to make the team tournament, along with League VII’s undefeated Mt. Sinai and runner-up Elwood-John Glenn. Two other teams will get in under wildcard slots. The top two seeds will get first-round byes, but compete like all the other teams in the first round on Wednesday, January 16. Seeds three and six and four and five will face off against one another at the highest seed in each bracket at 4:30 PM, and the winner will face off against the home team at 6 PM. The semifinal winners compete January 19 at Bay Shore High School at 2:30 PM. Regardless of the outcome, Hampton Bays is excited for another go at it, hoping this season will be a catalyst for years to come.
“We’ve improved a lot from last year,” Pacheco said. “We’re not the bottom-of-the-pack team anymore that other teams can just brush off. Now, everyone’s talking about us. We set the bar high and now we’re just got to keep pushing it up. And there’s no going back.”