By Mitch Abramson
“I'm just trying to get comfortable out there before I compete,” he said.A middle linebacker and fullback on Springfield Gardens varsity football team, Lynch looks like he's about to abuse a quarterback, but what the senior is doing is common for athletes who put their bodies and minds through unbearable amounts of pain: he is bracing himself for the steady thumping that is a wrestling match.In his first year competing at the Empire State Games, Lynch won his first five matches in a row, hurrying through the competition as if he had an appointment to make. He pinned his opponent in his first match in 20 seconds; won his second match 5-2; pinned his third rival in 1:08 and finished off his fourth 4-2 to reach the finals of the freestyle 220-pound scholastic division Friday. Garet, the defending PSAL City Champion and a fourth place finisher at the State Championships, was attempting to leave his mark on the competition.”He's trying to become the first New York City athlete in a long time to win a gold medal in wrestling,” said Lou DeStefano, coach of the team from New York City and the wrestling coach at Monsignor Farrell. “He's so big and muscular that he can basically control his opponent during the match. He's only been wrestling for a little over a year. It's amazing what he has accomplished.”Lynch appeared on his way to capturing gold, but in the second round he tired after his opponent, Kane Smith, the New York State small school champion in folk-style and a senior at Salamanca HS near Buffalo, forced him to waste energy by making him struggle for position.”I could feel his energy fade away in the second round,” said Smith, who came into the match at 205 pounds. “He was strong as a bull in the first round.”With the match scoreless after two rounds, a coin was tossed to determine which wrestler would get to lock positions first, an advantage that is leveraged by forcing an opponent to clasp his hands in a position where his grip can be broken. Lynch won the toss; if he could force Smith to break his grip, he would take the lead by a point. As it turned out, Smith missed a throw attempt, and Lynch swung around, clasped his arms around Smith's waist and took him down to go up 1-0. With under a minute remaining in the round, and the required three points to win off in the distance, Smith took Lynch down to even the score at 1-1.”He was strong in there,” Lynch said. “He was fast.”With 25 seconds left in the match, Smith took Lynch down again to go up 2-1, but in the overtime period, Smith scored three points on a headlock throw to win the match 5-1.”I tried my best in there,” said Lynch, who also runs track and plays basketball at Springfield Gardens. “I just didn't wrestle how I normally wrestle. I performed well up until my last match. A silver medal is nice, but a gold would have been better.”Lynch won silver again when he was beaten by Kris Bennett of Central 7-3 in the 220- pound weight class in Greco-Roman wrestling later in the day.Reach reporter Mitch Abramson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.