Manhasset wrestler Carlson out to avenge loss, win state title as senior

Manhasset wrestler Carlson out to avenge loss, win state title as senior
Manhasset senior wrestler Eric Carlson (in blue) is undefeated this season and hoping for a state title at 189 pounds. Photo credit:Terry Uellendahl.

Like other individual sports where you compete head-to-head with one person, it’s helpful to have a short memory.

Dwelling on a win, or an agonizing loss, isn’t good business, because there’s always another match or game right around the corner. And if your head is still in the past, your future’s not going to look too bright.

Eric Carlson knows this. The star 189-pound wrestler for Manhasset High School has had so many tremendous victories over the past four years, including 27 wins without a loss this year as a senior.

But oh, the memory of one loss still causes him to wince. It was the Nassau County finals last winter, against a wrestler he had beaten earlier in the season, Kwasi Bonsu of Baldwin High School.

“I made one stupid mistake, such a stupid mistake, and he pinned me,” Carlson recalled the other day, shaking his head at the memory as he sat inside Manhasset’s locker room. “And you forget about it and go on, but it bothered me because it never should’ve happened.”

Carlson shook it off to snag a third-place finish at the New York State championships last February, the best-ever showing for a grappler from the school, capping a 40-3 season that stunned even him.

“If you’d told me when I started as a freshman that as a junior I’d go 40-3 and get third at states… I’d say no way, and you’re crazy,” Carlson said.

This year Carlson, who uses his brute strength and his encyclopedic knowledge of moves and holds to crush the competition, has had his eyes fixed on getting back to states and finishing a few spots higher.

“I have thought about it a few times, but I try really hard to just focus on one match at a time,” Carlson said. “A few times this year I’ve won (matches) by doing just enough to win, and I have to get out of that mentality, and take every match seriously.”

Manhasset coach Stephon Sair said his senior 189-pounder has been dedicated since joining varsity as a freshman.

“His main strength is work ethic,” Sair said. “He never misses practice, never complains, doesn’t have injuries. “He’s like a machine.”

Fair said that one major key to Carlson’s success is simplicity: He’s not constantly trying new moves or techniques he’s seen on YouTube or in college matches he watches constantly; instead, “he had a few things he does really well, and he’s mastered those things and just does those.”

Carlson first started wrestling in seventh grade, he said, going out for the team in middle school just because a friend asked him to come to tryouts with him. He quickly grew to love the sport, and by ninth grade was starting on varsity.

“I took my lumps and got pounded a little bit against older kids, but I knew I wanted to do this,” Carlson said. “Even though I was losing, I could see that if I worked, I’d get better.”

“I came to the county championship finals as a freshman, to watch, and I saw those winners getting their hands raised on the podium,” he added. “And I said to myself that’s where I want to be.”

Carlson said his favorite thing about the sport is that it’s “merit-based,” and that if the work is put in, results will show.

By sophomore year Covid-19 had wrecked the winter sports season so he would wrestle for club programs like Ascend Wrestling in Hicksville, while trying to stay sharp. He’s also been invited to training camps and sessions for the best wrestlers in the state in Yonkers.

“I felt myself getting a lot better, every time I wrestled those guys,” Carlson said.

Once he got thru last season, he had the speed bump in the county finals but still won two matches at states, despite admitting to being a little nervous at his first time in the state tournament spotlight.

Losing in the semis to Jake Trovato of Lindenhurst left Carlson feeling happy to have been Top 3, but still a little disappointed to be so close.

Now, the Cornell-bound wrestler entering the Industrial Labor Relations program there next fall is hoping to go just a little bit further, and get his hand raised at the end, at the state tournament in Albany on Feb. 24-25.

“I want to send a message to other kids that wrestling is really fun, and it’s never too late to start,” Carlson said. “We’ve got a lot of successful teams here at Manhasset, so just hoping kids see that if you put in the work, you can make it in wrestling.”


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