The only wrestler to be an All-American in Riverhead history will take his talents to a Division I college program next year.
Eddie Matyka, a senior who wrestled at the 120-pound weight class this year, has accepted an offer to join the wrestling program at Binghamton University.
This, after a season that not even he thought he was capable of producing.
“My dad has been taking me to tournaments since I was seven years old,” Matyka said. “I’ve always wanted to make it to nationals. It was the only sport I ever wanted to play. It’s individual. You don’t have to rely on other people.”
Coming into this year, the best finish Matyka had was fifth at the Suffolk County championship in his junior year. It was a year after sitting out his sophomore season with a back injury that required surgery.
“It was tough coming back after the surgery,” Matyka said. “I had to get back into it. I was really rusty. Missing a whole year set me back.”
After training at a high level, spending a lot of time working out and attending the 631 Elite Wrestling Club, Matyka had a year that will forever cement itself in the Riverhead history books.
“My goal coming into this year was to win the county’s and just place in states, honestly,” Matyka said.
It all started in the Section XI Division I county championship. He was trailing 5-0 with just 30 seconds left on the clock. A gritty Matyka fought his way back against Hauppague sophomore Ben Tepperman, a wrestler he had already lost to during the year.
“I got him in a cradle,” Matyka said.
The take down gave him two points and the move added another three and in a flash, the match was tied.
“I thought I actually pinned him in the final seconds,” Matyka said. “Everyone was screaming.”
There was a host of boos coming from the stands for a call that every ref in the crowd thought should have been made. But it wasn’t called and the match would go into triple overtime. The first point recorded would win. And on an escape, it was Matyka who emerged victorious, 7-5. Because of his efforts, he was awarded the Most Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament out of all the weight classes.
Matyka then went to states and the adversity never faded. He matched up against the No. 2 seed in the first round of the tournament.
“I ended up losing 5-4 to him,” Matyka said.
In order to place in states, he would then need to string together a few victories in the double elimination bracket. The heart-breaking loss inspired him instead of deflating him.
“If I lost one match, I would have been knocked out without a placing,” Matyka said. “I had to win five in a row to win it all.”
He ripped off four consecutive victories and planted himself in the third and fourth matchup. He lost a 3-2 decision to Gerard Daly to finish fourth in the tournament but his placing qualified him for nationals. In order to become an All-American, he needed to place top-eight in a field of over 50 competitors at Virginia Beach for the NHSCA High School Senior Nationals.
Once again, he lost the first match of the tournament. He happened to be matched up against the No. 2 seed and the eventual runner-up, Anthony Rubinetti of New Jersey, after a random draw.
But it wasn’t your usual loss. Matyka was leading 8-4, in control of the entire match with Rubinetti on his back before he squeezed out and put Matyka into a cradle.
“Nobody wants to lose like that,” Matyka said. “But I had to keep my head in it.”
He rattled off five straight wins, putting himself in a position to either wrestle for third and fourth or fifth and sixth. The fifth win made him an All-American, now it was just about the final placing. Matyka lost that match and won his final match to finish fifth in the national tournament.
He was unaware that in that tournament he was the first Riverhead wrestler to ever be named All-American.
“I was excited when I heard that,” Matyka said. “I had no idea.”
Shortly after, Binghamton expressed interest in Matyka. He was planning on wrestling in college but not at a high-caliber school like SUNY Binghamton. So when they offered, he accepted. It was a no-brainer for him.
“I probably wouldn’t be able to get in there without the wrestling,” Matyka said. “So I was really interested.”
After a visit last month, he made it official.
The first All-American in Riverhead history will now be a Bearcat. He said he may have been the first All-American but he might not be the last.
“My brother could do it,” Matyka said.
Mark Matyka wrestled at the 99-pound weight class last season.
Matyka’s goal for college wrestling is to crack the lineup by his second season.
“I’m prepared to work as hard as possible to get that spot,” Matyka said. “I’m looking forward to wrestling at a high level all year long. It’s my favorite thing to do.”
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