Liam McIntyre can hang with the best of them.
Entering the state wrestling tournament as the No. 6 seed, the Westhampton Beach senior 195-pounder felt he had something to prove. And even up against No. 1 Sam Deprez of Hilton, who had pinned every opponent in the first period on his side of the bracket up until the finals, McIntyre was making moves.
Deprez got his first two points early, and racked up back points to end the first period, stretching McIntyre’s left leg on several occasions to form a 90-degree angle, even forcing him into a split at one point in the second. But McIntyre refused to go down easy. The Hurricane avoided multiple pin attempts, and earned back points late in the third, but his effort fell just short with a 4-2 loss.
“Liam wrestled a very, very smart match,” head coach Paul Bass said, adding that across Deprez’s 51-0 record, he’d either pinned or won by a technical fall in all but two of his bouts, including the one against McIntyre. “Sammy scores a lot of points early, so we tried to keep it close and steal it at the end, and Liam almost did. Deprez hadn’t had a match all year long, and he knew he was in quite a battle. Even their coaches said of Liam, ‘That kid is something. That kid is tough’.”
McIntyre dominated the first two rounds with 6-1 wins, even while wrestling conservatively, according to his coach. He upset No. 2 Jhordyn Innocent of East Ramapo with a 4-3 decision to become the second Hurricane to ever advance to the finals. Innocent had placed second at 195 last year, and was the only other wrestler not to lose by a technical fall or pin to Deprez, losing his match 12-2. McIntyre was in a 2-2 tie with Innocent heading into the final period, and earned a takedown for the win.
“That was a crazy feeling,” McIntyre said. “I had watched the states since I was a little kid and dreamed of getting there, so when the clock hit zero and I knew I was actually going to get a chance to finish my high school career on that yellow state finals mat, I was in disbelief.”
But it was something Bass saw for his senior all along. After a league loss in seventh grade, the coach sat his young athlete down and told him to keep his head up, that he knew with big hands and big feet his 106-pounder had plenty of room to grow. He even said to McIntyre then, “You and I are going to be in the state finals together your senior year at 195 pounds.” For the pair, it was surreal to see that come to fruition.
“People will tell you, I have these visions all the time,” Bass said, laughing. “I always have the utmost confidence in him — he’s just a tremendous athlete.”
What the head coach also thought was interesting was word spread across his Westhampton wrestler’s challengers that McIntyre (38-1) was strong on top. Both Innocent and Deprez chose to start on top and at neutral, respectively, during their periods of choice.
“It was a very interesting strategy, but guys are afraid to go under him,” Bass said. “His semifinal match was pretty hairy, and he took a great free shot. Liam’s a winner.”
McIntyre finishes his career 171-37, setting a new record-high in wins at Westhampton. He was the first seventh-grader to make the varsity team, became the first to earn six All-League nods, is a three-time All-County wrestler, two-time Suffolk County champion, was named All-State twice, and is the first to earn All-American status. He is the second Hurricane to make it to the finals. Alex Tanzman earned second in 2013.
“I wasn’t the favorite to win, so all the pressure was off — I knew it was going to be my last time wrestling, so I just wanted to enjoy it,” McIntyre said. “Ending with a dominant record I think is just a testament to the work I’ve put in. I don’t expect anything less. Dreaming of something for so long and to see it become a reality, it’ll be a great memory I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.”