By Mike Smith
On Feb. 16, junior Youssif Hemida became the first-ever Mamaroneck wrestler to win a Section I title as he defeated second-seeded Ryan Delanty from Mahopac 7-3 in the section championships at Clarkstown South High School. Hemida’s first-place finish was not the only bright spot for Mamaroneck in sectionals, though, as teammates Louis Rubio and Alexandro Sanchez also placed at the tourney.
Hemida, who came into the tournament ranked 13th at 220 pounds, had a tough road to the finals, but beat the fifth, fourth and first-seeded wrestlers in order to advance to the finals. In his semifinal match, he knocked off defending champion John Hartnett with a stellar 6-4 decision in overtime.
“I had seen him wrestle,” Hemida said. “I knew I could get the job done, even if I had to do it in overtime.”
For Hemida, the section title was a sweet finish to a season that was nearly derailed by injury. Early in the year, Hemida suffered a fractured neck that sidelined him for 10 weeks and only allowed him to take part in four regular season matches.
“I thought I was done for the season,” Hemida said. “But going to the doctor, doing the physical therapy, it felt really good that I was able to get back out there.”
Once he got back on the mat, Hemida did his best to put the fear of re-injuring himself out of his mind.
“In the beginning, I was very careful about my neck, not fully doing my moves just to be careful,” he said. “But it didn’t really bother me in my matches, just basically the days after I
For Hemida, who has seen other great wrestlers pass through the ranks at Mamaroneck, becoming the school’s first-ever section champ was a great honor, but the junior is quick to point out that his teammates, like Rubio and Sanchez, also wrote their own chapter in the program’s history with their stellar weekends.
“It’s an amazing point for our program,” Hemida said. “We had three guys place in section this year so, even if we didn’t do that well in the team standings, this year, we’re still helping to put Mamaroneck on the map.”
Hemida will join the rest of Section I’s champions at states on Feb. 28, when the top local wrestlers will get the chance to take on the best wrestlers from all over New York. Although Section I has not historically fared well at the tournament, recent years have shown the section’s improvement as more champions than ever have come from the area.
“There’s a couple of mandatory practices and I’m going to be doing some individual work with my coaches at Mamaroneck and my club team,” Hemida said. “We didn’t really talk about it before because I didn’t want to jinx it.”
Regardless of how states turn out, Hemida said when he hits the mat next winter, he’s going to have be ready to defend his title at 220 pounds.
“This year, I was an underdog, but next year, I would hope to be the clear favorite in the section,” he said. “I want to stay humble, but I think that if I’m healthy, that’s going to be a big motivating factor.”