NEW ROCHELLE, NY — Grant Cuomo has never been the type to show emotion on the mat.
The Brewster senior has always let his wrestling do the talking before moving onto the next task. His respect for the grueling sport runs too deep to show up his opponent.
But in the immediate aftermath of the most thrilling win of his career, Cuomo let it all out. This has been his most challenging season, and he earned the right to pound his chest for a few brief moments.
“I couldn’t contain it,” Cuomo said. “When the clock ticked to zero, I lost my mind. I was on another planet. I didn’t know what was going on. It’s surreal. It all feels like a dream to me right now. I’ve literally dreamed in my sleep of this moment — so many times. Now, I’m living it.”
When he first dislocated his left elbow in December, doctors told Cuomo he had a “10 percent chance” of wrestling again in a high school competition. But despite the unfavorable prognosis and a college career at Princeton to consider, he was determined to make it back and take one more crack at an elusive state title.
On Saturday at the Times Union Center, he completed his mission. While wrestling with an injury that is not yet fully-healed, Cuomo shocked New York state by upsetting defending state champion Tyler Barnes of Ballston Spa with a 13-10 decision.
“It feels like a million pounds off my shoulders,” he said. “I can finally relax. I spent the last two weeks training like there’s no tomorrow because I’ve been trying to make up time. I missed so much time. In the middle of the season, the biggest chunk of the season, I was out. I didn’t think I was coming back, so I was eating whatever I wanted to, I wasn’t lifting, I wasn’t running — I thought I was done.”
With the match tied at 9-9 late in the third period and Cuomo on top, he could have tried to ride Barnes out to force overtime. But in a sign of supreme confidence, he let Barnes escape and fell behind by a point.
The decision would pay off.
With 18 seconds remaining, Cuomo took Barnes down and put him to his back for a thrilling four-point move. It clinched the title and resulted in the first loss of the season for Barnes, who entered the match 46-0.
“At 9-9, I was like, ‘I’m going to go for the win.’ I let him up and took him down to his back,” he said. “It was the right call. Wrestling is a mental game. If you’re mentally tough, you’re going to win.”
The astounding victory came one year after Cuomo lost in the state finals. He is the first-ever state champion from Brewster.
And just a few weeks ago, he didn’t even think he’d be physically able to compete.
“Everyone loves a comeback story, and I do, too,” Cuomo said. “It would have been ideal to have the whole season, all of the time to train, go to all of the big tournaments – but this is way cooler.”
Logan completes perfect season
Cuomo was one of seven Section 1 wrestlers to make it to the finals, but one of only two who claimed championships. The second was New Rochelle junior Jake Logan, who completed his perfect season by capturing the title at 182 pounds.
“It may be cliché, but it’s surreal,” Logan said. “It’s awesome. It’s something I’ve worked for as long as I can remember.”
In the finals, Logan was pitted against his rival, Jacob Ferreira of Horace Greeley. It was their fourth meeting of the season, and after pinning Ferreira two weeks ago in the Section 1 finals, Logan won their final bout with a 5-3 decision.
It marked the first-ever all-Section 1 state final.
“I had to pace myself a little more in that match because he’s more of a gamer,” Logan said. “I composed myself, managed my energy and came through.”
The rivalry between Logan and Ferreira took on a life of its own, but after the match, Logan expressed his appreciation for Ferreira pushing him all season.
“I always had respect for him,” Logan said. “I never had anything against him. He’s a great competitor and he’s an extremely hard-worker from what I can tell. I wanted a good match, and he gave it to me.”
Logan finished 41-0, and even more impressive was the fact that no opponent took him down the entire season. Heading into his senior season, he’ll surely be courted by a number of Division I college programs.
He became the second state champion from New Rochelle, joining 2011 state champ Malcolm Allen. And with everything that his school has endured in recent weeks, including the tragic death of classmate Valaree Schwab, Logan spoke with pride about his hometown.
“I hope this uplifts the community a little bit,” he said. “New Rochelle is going to move forward. It’s a great place and the things that happened there are nothing in the grand scheme. It’s a great community and I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Five from Section 1 take second
Five wrestlers from Section 1 came up on the short end in the finals.
There were two competing in the 152-pound finals in different divisions. Pearl River junior Jack Chesman lost a 6-2 decision to Copenhagen’s Dempsey Carroll in Division II, while Fox Lane senior Matt Grippi lost an 8-2 decision to Long Beach’s Jacori Teemer in Division I.
It was the third trip to the finals for Grippi, who will graduate in second place on the all-time Section 1 wins list with 242. For Teemer, who is ranked No. 2 in the country, it was his fifth state title.
In the 195-pound final, East Ramapo junior Jhordyn Innocent was pinned in the first period by Wantagh’s Jonathan Loew. And in the 220-pound final, John Jay-Cross River senior Halil Gecaj was pinned in the third period by Long Beach’s Elijah Rodriguez. Gecaj and Rodriguez were tied at 4-4 heading into the final period. It was the first-ever state finals appearance for a John Jay wrestler.