Worth the weight: Grand Street win PSAL wrestling title

Grapplers from the Grand Street Campus Wolves bested the Brooklyn Tech Engineers — and won the Public School Athletic League Wrestling dual meet city championship — on Jan. 18, thanks, in part, to a senior who bulked himself up by mistake.

Grand Street senior Deuly Espinal said he was disappointed with himself when he missed his weight class. Instead of wrestling at 132 pounds, where coach John Zarcone figured he would be more effective, Espinal weighed in at 134 and had to move up to 138.

“I was supposed to make it, but I’ve been cutting some weight and it’s hard to maintain it for four months,” Espinal said.

But, in the end, it didn’t matter. In fact, Espinal’s weight gain was actually fortuitous.

In the day’s penultimate match, Espinal pinned Brooklyn Tech’s Jonathan Negron at 3:40 to clinch a 46–27 win for Grand Street Campus. It was 2–0 in the second period when Espinal turned Negron over and pinned his opponent, whipping his teammates and the many Wolves supporters into a frenzy.

“He’s been struggling with his weight,” Zarcone said. “He’s cutting down to 132 and that’s something we gotta straighten out. But you know, it worked out today. He’s a tough wrestler where we can move him around and it did pay off — big time. We had him to seal it up.”

The victory marked Grand Street’s first title since 2007 and the second championship for a program that Zarcone started just seven years ago. The coach said last week after beating Wingate in the semifinals that he and his wrestlers weren’t thinking about last year’s loss to Brooklyn Tech in the finals — they were thinking about this year’s loss to their heated rival.

“It’s about avenging this year’s dual meet with them and about winning the championship,” Zarcone said. “I’m not going into a wrestling room unless I’m coaching toward a championship. And I don’t want wrestlers in my room unless they’re working toward a championship.”

The Wolves came out hot and featured a shuffled lineup that featured seven wrestlers in different weight classes than they’ve been in all year to combat the Engineers’ depth. Zarcone’s strategy clicked right away when Jorje Jimenez won a major decision over Tech star Cristian Masaya, 19–5, at 152 to start the meet. Jimenez typically wrestles at 160 pounds.

“It’s something that nobody saw us doing and it was really shock value more than anything,” Zarcone said. “To take out a very tough Cristian Masaya with that first match was important to do. That’s big points in a match like that.”

The momentum continued. Josh Thomas, up at 160, defeated Patrick Alcantara by decision, 5–4, and Clifford Cruz came up with a huge pin (4:32) over Olaleye Ojo at 170. Clifford normally wrestles at 182. Anatoliy Anchakov gave Grand Street a 16–0 lead with a 6–2 decision over Kevin Tynes at 182.

As expected, Brooklyn Tech rallied at the heavier weights. Andreas Kokkoros beat Enmanuel Perez by decision, 6–0; star Patryk Kopczynski pinned Ismal Cueto in 1:47 at 220; and Shaquille Williams pinned Julio Medina in 3:47 at 285 to get the Engineers within 16–15.

Grand Street Campus star Josh Antoine got his team its swagger back with an exciting pin of Yaneev Hirsh in 58 seconds at 99 pounds. The 5-foot-1 senior, one of the best in state in his weight class, fired up the crowd with his pre-match histrionics, slapping his head and jogging around his side of the circle.

“Most of the time, when we have a little drought going on, I go out and I pick it up for the team,” Antoine said. “That’s just to hype up the team to get back into the swing of things.”

After Brooklyn Tech’s Zin Htoo won a major decision, 14–5, over Justin Vazquez at 106, Yeury Tavarez and Keanu Thompson both came up with pins at 113 and 120, respectively. Three matches later, Espinal wrapped it up with a pin of his own.

“I can’t even explain it,” Espinal said. “It hasn’t even sunk in yet. I know it’s something special, but I can’t even express my emotions right now.”

Reach reporter Colin MIxson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4514.