In six varsity seasons, Liam McIntyre has gone from overthinking to unobservant when it comes to planning against opponents.
“I don’t like to look at brackets, look at who I’m wrestling, because it’s really just a mental game,” the Westhampton Beach senior said on Saturday. “I did a lot of that when I was young, looking at rankings and seeding and it was the downfall of everything I did. So, I make sure now that I do not know a single person I’m going to wrestle. Ever. I’m confident in my training and in my ability. I know coming into the tournament I’m the best guy here. I’m looking to win, and no one is going to get in my way.”
The 195-pounder pinned his first two opponents, won his semifinal match against Bay Shore’s Jaylyn Butler with a 17-1 technical fall, and slithered his way past Northport’s Peter Magilocco with a 5-3 decision for his second straight Suffolk County title February 10.
“I know I’m better than a lot of the big kids on my feet, so I just try to stay slick, stay moving,” McIntyre said. “I would’ve liked to have done that better, but nerves come in big situations like this and when the nerves come, you slow up on the gas a little bit. I just tried to keep my head in my match, stay at my pace, and stay on top.”
He started the match at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood with quick back-to-back back points to get ahead 4-1 by the end of the first period. McIntyre (35-0, 21 pins) maintained that position until the start of the third, when with a four-second escape he upped his advantage to 5-1. With 20 seconds left, McIntyre was looking for his own points and nearly found himself in trouble, but instead of risking being pinned, he let Magilocco pick up his first and only set of back points to ensure he’d be the winner by the end of the match.
“I knew he was going to be tough — obviously he deserved to be there — and I knew it was going to be a good match, but I just kept focusing on what I was going to do next, trying to score and trying to make moves, play my game,” McIntyre said. “The match ended before I knew it.”
The senior said it was a nice weight off his shoulders, but head coach Paul Bass predicted nothing less from him.
“Liam’s a winner. It’s just expected,” Bass said. “He’s a quality kid from a quality family, a fierce competitor. They tried to slow down the pace, but there’s just no one in the county he has trouble with.”
What got McIntyre even more psyched was sophomore Jackson Hulse’s win less than half an hour earlier. The 160-pounder pulled off a 4-3 decision over Centereach’s Jett Tancsik for his first piece of county hardware. He made it to the finals in convincing fashion, topping Eastport-South Manor’s Steven Kane with a 12-8 decision, and this was all while not eating for over 24 hours because of food poisoning.
“It was pretty rough, but I had to remain mentally tough,” Hulse said, adding he was only thinking he’d place in the top three or four of his weight class. “I wanted to make the match quick, because I didn’t know how much energy I had. I wrestled smart, although I think I could’ve done more offensively, but I was feeling pretty confident.”
The sophomore secured the first takedown and took a 2-1 lead into and through the second period. Like McIntyre, he was quick to escape the referee’s position. Tancsik tied the match with 31 seconds left in the match, but an escape just 11 seconds later helped Hulse to the title.
“I was a little nervous there at the end, my body was a little tired, but I looked over to my coaches who told me I had to pull through, so I got my act together,” Hulse said, smiling. “I knew he wasn’t going to take me down after that final point. That’s when I knew I had the match.”
“His performance was unbelievable after throwing up all night,” Bass said. “He started throwing up again this afternoon — how you find it in you to win the Suffolk County tournament when you’re not even close to 100 percent . . . that’s really something.”
Hulse’s (35-4) teammate quickly leapt into his arms after the final whistle to congratulate him. The sophomore is the youngest Westhampton Beach wrestler to be crowned county champ.
“I was probably happier for him than I was for myself to win it,” McIntyre said, laughing. “He’s like a little brother to me and we’ve been training together and basically living together for a very long time.”
The six-time All-League standout, who finished sixth in the state last year, said he was worrying all week as to who his roommate at the February 22-23 state championship at Times Union Center was going to be, but doesn’t have to put much thought into it now that he knows Hulse will be joining him. Immediately following his celebration though, he was back to thinking about what he’d told himself over and over during the two-day tournament.
“I’ve been staying in my own head the past two days, telling myself to ‘dominate, dominate, dominate. Stay focused on what you’re going to do,’” McIntyre said. “This was a pretty dominant tournament for me, and I’m looking to continue to dominate every time I step out onto the mat.”