Angel Flores never forgot that feeling of being underestimated. He went through the season unranked among Nassau County wrestlers but he didn’t let that deter him. And as the final seconds were set to tick out on his season, Flores continued to fight. And he did the unexpected.
Flores, a junior at Westbury, saw he was losing, 2-1, with 15 seconds left in his quarterfinal matchup at the Nassau Division I wrestling championships at Hofstra on Saturday. But Flores reversed his fortune and pinned Freeport’s Christian Greene as time expired in the third and final round to advance to the semifinals at 189 pounds.
“I just remember I was looking at the time and I was panicking,” Flores said. “I was just like, ‘What do I do? I can’t lose this match.’”
Flores went on the offensive and used his body to flip Greene to the ground before securing the pin.
“I just said, ‘You know what, you have nothing to lose,’ and I just went for it,” Flores said. “I felt his shoulder on the mat and I was like, ‘Did I get it, Did I get it?’ and once I heard everyone screaming, I knew that was it.”
Flores wasn’t the only wrestler to advance with a late victory. Connor Duffy, of Manhasset, defeated Michael D’Amico, of Wantagh, via a 3-2 decision at 160 pounds after the match was tied at 2 after the second round. Duffy started down to begin the third round and scored via an escape.
“I knew I had to find a way, no matter what,” Duffy said. “That was all that mattered. I lost to him in the season, so I knew I had to get this one back. I needed to get that back to be able to move forward and now I’m in the semifinals.”
Defending state champions Dunia Sibomana-Rodriguez (Long Beach, 110 pounds) and Joe Manfredi (Herricks, 126 pounds) both advanced to the semifinals, beginning at 9:30 a.m. at Hofstra on Sunday, followed by the finals at 4:30 p.m.
Flores recalled a message from his coach to start the season, saying, “I just remember my coach telling me, ‘No one knows your name, but trust me at the end of the season, they will.’”
“I told him, ‘I see it. Every match you are getting better and better and better,’ ” coach Savalis Charles said. “I’ve seen him growing and I said, ‘This is your year, I promise you.’ ”
“I couldn’t have asked for a better ending,” Charles added. “That was awesome. He needed something big to win and he did it.”
Flores said there were moments during the year he even doubted himself. But he never let those doubts overtake him.
“At the start of the season I was unranked, no one really knew my name,” Flores said. “So it’s crazy to do something like this on a big stage like this.”
“I’m going to go to bed happy,” Charles said. “I told him, ‘You did the unthinkable but you did what I said you were going to do. And now you just have to finish.’ ”
From an unranked wrestler to a semifinalist. That’s a drastic change for Flores, who lost in the qualifying stages last winter.
Said Charles, “Now they know who you are.”