Herricks wrestler Manfredi looks for another state title after frustrating junior year

Herricks wrestler Manfredi looks for another state title after frustrating junior year
Herricks senior Joe Manfredi (top) won a state title in 2022, and is looking to repeat the feat this winter. Photo courtesy of Herricks HS.

He could feel it. He could sense it. He could see it.

As Herricks High School senior Joe Manfredi went through wrestling season last year, he knew what other people thought.

He’s not much into music, but if he was, Manfredi’s theme song could’ve been the title of an old Tupac Shakur tune: “All Eyez On Me.”

Manfredi was coming off an absolutely incredible 2021-22 season when as a sophomore he was utterly dominant. The then-112-pound grappler won all 51 of his matches and snared the first individual state title for a Highlanders wrestler in 15 years.

He was on top, and everyone knew it. Heck, his picture is on a wall in Herricks High School, reminding all who walk by on the way to biology class or the lunchroom of the epic accomplishment Manfredi achieved.

To go undefeated and win a state title is usually the culmination of a career, not the midpoint. So how do you possibly follow up a year like that?

“There was a lot of pressure, mental pressure I put on myself and pressure I felt from other people,” Manfredi said before a recent practice, as the new wrestling season got underway. “And then I wasn’t happy with my weight, and I hit some adversity, and then I made some poor choices … I just didn’t like what I was doing.”

For just about anyone else, Manfredi’s junior season would’ve been incredible. He went 41-2 at the 126-pound weight class and reached the semifinals at the Nassau County Championships in early February.

“This is a kid who’s had eyes on him since he made varsity in seventh grade, and everyone knows how good he is and therefore he gets everyone’s best shot,” said Herricks coach Eric Goldberg. “And he has set the standard so high, it became like, ‘it’s not enough just to win, he has to win emphatically, or dominate.’ It’s a lot to deal with.”

As the season wore on last year, Manfredi said he could feel himself getting tired easier in matches. A wrestler known for his immense stamina suddenly was gasping for air on the mat. Covid tests kept coming up negative, but finally, after losing to eventual state finalist Joseph Clem of Wantagh at counties, he knew he had to get thoroughly checked out.

Multiple tests revealed Manfredi had mononucleosis, and an enlarged spleen to go with it. Doctors told him he couldn’t have any physical activity for three months, so a chance to defend his state title was gone.

“I just felt like I had no energy and it didn’t feel good,” Manfredi said. “My stamina was destroyed.”

After a spring and summer recuperating and regaining his strength, expect Manfredi to be back to his dominating self.

Now in his sixth year on the Highlanders’ varsity team, Manfredi continues to show why he was such a highly-rated recruit. He’s got remarkable technical knowledge of the sport (asked to name something he does when he’s not wrestling, his immediate first response is “watch film and watch college wrestling matches”), and his quickness and ability to exploit any small weakness in any opponent is as good as any Herricks wrestler has had, Goldberg said.

Manfredi’s career match record is 188-8.

“Not to sound arrogant, but we know how great he is, so when he wasn’t quite himself last year, you could tell things were off,” Goldberg said. “He just knows so much about wrestling and can understand exactly what goes wrong when it does.”

This season, both Manfredi and Goldberg said the wrestler seems more relaxed, and more stress-free. He made his college decision over the summer, choosing to compete for traditional powerhouse Arizona State, in Tempe, Ariz, with Manfredi citing the beautiful campus and great rapport he felt with Sun Devils coaches as his primary reasons for picking the school.

He’s in a weight class he’s now comfortable in (152 pounds) and has a career goal of one day working for the FBI like one of his uncles does.

“I’m in a better place, and I just want to dominate every match,” Manfredi said. “States, state qualifiers, Eastern states, everything. Just keep my training up, stay healthy, and score a lot of quick points.”

“We just want him having fun with this sport, and he seems to be having more fun right now,” Goldberg added. “We try to keep it light and he seems to have a clear head right now. I think he’s going to have a great year.”



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