Smithtown West's Michael Hughes, a 285-pound junior, is not bashful about his intentions on a wrestling mat. He seeks, destroys and refuses to waste a second.
"I hate long matches," Hughes said. "Short and sweet."
At the Sachem North Invitational Saturday, Hughes went 4-0 with four pins, three in less than a minute. In the final, he pinned Sachem East's Josh Edmonson in 3:40, cementing his case as one of Long Island's best big men.
Hughes is 28-1 with 22 pins, and if you consider the four forfeit wins on his dossier, all but two of his wins have come inside the distance. But this season was in doubt before it started, as Hughes tore his ACL last January. He had a 22-4 record at the time of the injury and missed the postseason tournaments.
A two-way lineman on the football team, he recovered in time to test out his knee on the gridiron.
"Before football season, I was scared and everything," Hughes said. "But during the season, I was pushing people around, and my knee wasn't bothering me anymore."
Smithtown West coach Ken Leverich credits much of Hughes' success this season to his willingness to work out soon after surgery. Despite not being able to work out his legs, Hughes showed up to weight-room sessions and focused on building his upper-body strength.
"He keeps winning, which keeps boosting his confidence, and that's all he really cares about," Leverich said.
Hughes, though, is a man of few words, and if he is the confident sort, he does not let that be known. He just pins people, one after the other falling like dominoes.
In the 195-pound final, Miller Place's Ryan Kelly took a 2-1 overtime decision from Sachem North's Anthony Confessore. Two of Suffolk's best at this weight wrestled a tactical match, as there were minimal takedown attempts.
"I watched his previous match [against Sachem East's Cristian Nunez], and I was trying to snap him down and shoot on his pop-up," Kelly said. "But he's a really strong guy, and when he tied up with me, I couldn't get through it."
After a scoreless first period, Confessore scored an escape with 15 seconds left in the second to take a 1-0 lead. Kelly responded early in the third with an escape to even the match.
The score remained tied following the sudden-death overtime period. Kelly scored an escape during the tiebreaker and held on for the win.
"I tried this one move that didn't work, and I didn't have a lot of time, so I bailed, took the point, and wrestled him on my feet," Kelly said.
Sachem North's Francesco Napoli, the 126-pound champion, was named the tournament's most outstanding wrestler. In the final, he upset Conor O'Hara of Sachem East, 6-4, which followed his 3-2 win over Miller Place's John Steiger in a semifinal.
In an all-Sachem East final at 145, Anthony Pistone defeated Billy Merone by a 9-4 decision. At 132, East's Anthony Messina beat Sachem North's Matthew Mariano, 3-1, in overtime.