The theme at the start of last season for Riverhead centered around all the young wrestlers who made up the majority of the team. The Blue Waves featured 16 freshmen and by the end of the season, Riverhead was placing third in the League IV Tournament.
The hope was, with so much youth, the Blue Waves would return this season more experienced and better prepared for the rigors of a competitive league.
Only it hasn’t panned out quite as the Blue Waves had hoped.
“We were looking forward to a little bit more experience coming back this year, but it just didn’t pan out,” said Riverhead coach Wade Davey.
Through a variety of reasons — some wrestlers not coming out for the team this year and injuries — the Blue Waves will rely on a mostly inexperienced group of wrestlers this season.
Davey said to start the season the team is without seven starters because of injuries.
“It’s going to be a building year,” Davey said. “We’re going to go with what we have and try to build them up.”
It’ll be an excellent opportunity for many of the wrestlers to get more time on the mat against top competition. It won’t always be easy and Davey said developing the right attitude will be key.
“We’re going to go out and do the best we can,” he said.
The Blue Waves don’t feature many year-round wrestlers, so the early part of the season has come down to working on a lot of basics and fundamentals.
“In wrestling you really have to have the basics down before you can go on,” Davey said. “Realistically [Monday] we spent the entire day on singles and doubles [takedowns].”
Davey said he hopes toward the end of the season the team will start to catch up to some of the opposing teams that return more experienced wrestlers.
The Blue Waves will feature Brandon Elroumy at 106 pounds this season. A JV wrestler last season, Elroumy has impressed the coaches so far this season. He pinned Haiau Duong of East Hampton in a dual meet win Dec. 13.
The Blue Waves won the dual meet, 63-22, an impressive start for an inexperienced team.
One of the top returning wrestlers is sophomore Cody Weiss at 113. He was an all-league wrestler last season who advanced to the county tournament.
“He’ll be one of our leaders,” Davey said.
Another returning all-league wrestler is Kyle Helgans at 120. Ryan Gevinski returns after finishing fourth in the league last year. After wrestling 113 last season, he’ll jump up to 126.
The Blue Waves are without one of their other returning all-league wrestlers after Eugene Hyland suffered an injury during a meet this season. Davey said he wasn’t sure whether he would get the 195-pounder back this year. Hyland was second in the league tournament last season.
“That’s the experience we have on the team,” Davey said. “The young kids are going to battle and hopefully they can come on through the year.”
A few bright spots among the younger wrestlers are freshmen Kerry Thomas and Luke Colter, who will both wrestle at 99.
Freshman Mitch Hobbs will wrestle at 152.
“He’s really approaching wrestling the way it should be approached,” Davey said. “He’s working his butt off and he’s improving every day.”
League IV will be even tougher this season for Riverhead with the addition of East Islip. The Redmen, one of the upper teams in the county, join the league that already features two tremendous programs in Hauppauge and Hills West.
“It doesn’t make it very easy,” Davey said. “I don’t mind having tough competition because it only makes the kids better.”
The Blue Waves will wrestle a non-league dual meet against Baldwin Friday. They’ll travel to Somers High School Dec. 29 for a tournament before the league dual meet season kicks into gear in the new year.