As the calendar creeps closer to February, the top wrestlers on Long Island are gearing up for the postseason.
Bayport-Blue Point and Babylon, among the top teams in Suffolk's League VII, squared off, knowing that the same opponents they saw last night could very well be across from them at the county and state championships.
Bayport-Blue Point (19-13, 6-1), behind reigning county champions Ryan Hake and Justin Underwood, beat Babylon, 48-27.
Underwood and Hake got the Phantoms off to a quick start. Underwood pinned Joe Cappello in 51 seconds at 132 pounds, and Hake beat Jon Song by fall in 5:54 at 145.
"They're tone setters," Bayport-Blue Point coach Rich Reilly said. "They're leaders, and the other guys are watching how these guys work and perform. They learn from them and it's like a trickle effect."
Hake, who has won county titles at 119, 125 and 132 pounds, knows the effort he puts in will make a difference on the other wrestlers in the room. "Being a three-time defending county champion, a lot of kids look up to me," Hake said. "I have to be a good role model for the other kids and push everyone."
The thought of jumping ahead of Babylon (15-5, 5-2) in the standings was enough to push Bayport-Blue Point. The Phantoms took an 18-0 lead and led 39-9 after a pin by Matt Doty at 220 pounds.
"It's always good to wrestle good competition," Underwood said. "You're not learning anything going out and pinning a kid in 30 seconds. Even losses make you better; the tough competition improves you."
The toughest competition on Babylon is Brian Loskamp, the returning Division II county champion at 182 pounds.
"The other kids will come up to me and ask me the best way to do a move or what would work best for them," Loskamp said. "And the other team is probably watching film and looking for the best way to beat me, but I'm defending my title and I go out there with the same mentality every match."
The time to teach soon will be over, and Hake, Underwood and Loskamp once again will get to prove themselves against the best in the state -- with bull's-eyes on their backs.