Willy Kraus Crowned Suffolk Champ

Hampton Bays’ Willy Kraus in a match earlier this season against Port Jefferson. Independent/Gordon M. Grant
Hampton Bays’ Willy Kraus in a match earlier this season against Port Jefferson. Independent/Gordon M. Grant

A change of style wasn’t going to trip up technical Willy Kraus.

The 126-pound Hampton Bays wrestler is used to battling through an entire match with his opponent, relying on an arsenal of moves to rack up points. But the junior knew Shoreham-Wading River’s Eddie Troyano was going to try and take a different approach.

“We hadn’t seen Shoreham-Wading River all season, so Willy made a point to keep track of how Troyano was wrestling, watching his matches to figure out what he was doing,” head coach Mike Lloyd said. “Troyano has a tendency to come out strong from the beginning and try to manhandle his opponent a little bit, go right away for a pin. So, Willy knew if he kept the match low scoring that it would create an opportunity for him to win.”

Kraus sidestepped Troyano’s attacks early until he was able to get him under control and earn two back points. Each wrestler was able to earn an escape point from a referee’s position, but it was all either wrestler could muster as Kraus gained a 3-1 victory and the Suffolk County title at the Division II championships at Center Moriches High School Saturday, February 8. The victory was even sweeter; Kraus had recently recovered from an injury.

“There were some instances during the match where they were in a stalemate, but Willy did a lot of top riding to be able to keep the scoring low,” Lloyd said. “We knew it would be interesting if they did end up facing each other, with Troyano taking more of a brute-force approach, versus what Willy does technically. Willy hadn’t wrestled in the last couple of tournaments, and to see him come out on top was great, it really was.”

Although some Baymen before him had come close, Kraus becomes the first Hampton Bays wrestler since 2015 to represent the school in the state tournament, to be held at Times Union Center in Albany February 22-23.

“We’ve raised the bar and played in some tougher tournaments this year in preparation for the county tournament, to give them some different kids to see,” Lloyd said. “This has been an inspiration for the kids and we’ve already talked about starting to do some more stuff in the offseason to keep everyone sharp for next year.”

Joe Gaudiello, a 170-pound junior, will be returning to the team for that. He finished fourth in the county after a 4-3 loss to Mt. Sinai’s Vin Valente.

“He’s done a great job coming back from being behind a lot of the time,” Lloyd said. “There’s been matches where he’s seemed like he’s outclassed for most of the match and is able to pull something out at the end.”

The coach said if it was once or twice he’d consider it luck, but noted Gaudiello has turned it on when he’s needed to.

Gaudiello led by a point going into the last 20 seconds, but Valente took control with two back points to win.

Kevin Eras, at 285 pounds, was one of two senior first-timers to join the team, and had a string of successes, kicking off the season with a second-place finish at the Sprig Gardner Tournament in East Hampton. He capped it off with a fourth-place county finish after a pin at 4:42 by Mt. Sinai’s David Mazzella.

“When he first started learning what wrestling was about, he was a little hesitant to branch out, but throughout the season was taking the extra steps more and more each time, and technically, he started to open up,” Lloyd said. “He was taking more chances and it started to pay off; it was making a difference.”

“Being a heavyweight, I can’t really do things, like take certain shots that the lighter weights can, so I definitely had to learn different techniques,” Eras said. “I’m usually a confident person, but since I’d never wrestled in my life, I can’t say my confidence was really that high, so I just went out there trying to do my best.”

Looking back on it, the lineman for the Hampton Bays football team and utility player for the baseball team only wished he’d come out sooner.

“This has all gone so much better than I’d ever anticipated,” Eras said. “I’ve always wanted to do something in the winter, decided to give it a go this season, and found myself loving the sport so much more than I’d ever expected. It’s all on you, and the fact that you have to push yourself in order to succeed.”

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