When Whitman last faced Island Trees in a Christmas tournament, it lost by the slimmest of margins, coach Vincent Altebrando said. When 285-pound wrestler Fati Harris last faced the Bulldogs' Vinny Manna, he lost, too: 7-3, to be exact.
My, what a difference a month makes.
Saturday evening, Whitman again faced its cross-Island foe, but this time decidedly flipped the script, defeating Island Trees, 54-15, in the finals of the Tim Collins Duals at Farmingdale High School. Leading the way was Harris, whose breezy 7-2 decision broke a tie at 9 and paved the way for a Whitman (19-3) squad that dominated in almost every aspect. The Bulldogs (18-8) won only one of their wrestled matches -- Tom Sinclair's 7-2 decision over Vin Feola at 220 pounds.
"It feels good," Harris said with a grin. "Hard work pays off. I wish I would've pinned him, but everything doesn't go your way sometimes. I feel pretty good about myself."
The Wildcats beat out eight other teams for the top spot in the all-day tournament, named after the middle school wrestling coach and varsity referee who died of brain cancer in 2008. The money raised by the event is put toward a scholarship in Collins' name, annually awarded to a senior Farmingdale wrestler, Farmingdale coach Kenny Garcia said. The Dalers placed fourth on the day, dropping the consolation bout in a 53-33 loss to Longwood.
"He was an important member of the Farmingdale community," Garcia said of Collins. "And after he died, his best friends and coaches wanted to do something in his honor."
Nine wrestlers -- one from each team -- are awarded squad MVPs. Though Garcia said the honor is generally decided Sunday, Altebrando was quick with his trigger Saturday, handing a small trophy to Kevin Figueroa shortly after Whitman collected its victory handshakes. Figueroa, who, at 168.2 pounds Saturday, wrestled up to the 182-pound class, collected pins in each of his four matches. The final one was a 3-minute, 48-second victory over Brandon Cassar.
"The last match was actually my toughest," Figueroa said. "I went out there not feeling my best, but I had the support of the team and I wanted to win it for us . . . Weight [difference] is just weight. It really comes down to who wants it the most and who puts in the most work."
That work ethic mantra was repeated by Joe Calderone -- who dropped his first match by decision before winning his next three, culminating in a pin of James Lambert in 2:48 at 113 pounds -- and Altebrando, who called the tournament title "a total team effort."
"We've been on a great roll and want to keep going working hard," Altebrando said. "They have a common goal. They all want to win and they all expect the other guy to win in front of them, and then they expect themselves to win."
A month ago, those expectations remained unfulfilled. Saturday, they were completely satisfied.