For good reason, most of the headlines for the Shoreham-Wading River wrestling program last year centered around T.J. Fabian. As one of the top wrestlers to ever come through the program, Fabian closed out a remarkable senior season by winning a state championship in dominant fashion.
He became the fourth Shoreham wrestler to win a state title.
While losing a wrestler of Fabian’s caliber hurts, the Wildcats return nearly their entire roster this season aside from him, giving the team reason to believe big things are still ahead.
“The top returners have put a lot of work in the offseason,” said Shoreham coach Joe Condon. “They’ve wrestled a lot of highly competitive tournaments, they’ve weight-trained, they’ve run, they’ve done everything they can.”
The Wildcats hope to be in the running for the top team in the league if everything falls into place this year. To get there, they’ll rely on their top returning wrestlers to lead the charge. Shoreham opens the season with three wrestlers ranked in the top six in Suffolk County in their weight classes.
“We have a lot of guys with experience,” Condon said.
The Wildcats have two wrestlers ranked second in the county, led by junior James Szymanski and senior Dom Pirraglia. Both wrestled in the county tournament last year. Pirraglia was a league champion who will wrestle at 182 this year. He finished fourth in the county last year.
Szymanski was a league runner-up last year who placed fifth in the county. He’ll wrestle 120 this year, which will be one of the more competitive weights in the county.
Leading the pack at 120 is Ward Melville sensation Nick Piccininni, who is already a two-time state champion. At the state championship last year, Piccininni was honored as the Most Outstanding Wrestler.
The goal for Szymanski coming into the season is to try to get to the county finals, where he knows in all likelihood, Piccininni will be waiting.
Shoreham also returns a talented wrestler in sophomore Jack Taddeo, who was a league champion last year. Taddeo will move up to wrestle 132 this year.
One challenge coming into the year lineup-wise will be getting Szymanski and Chris Meloni into separate weights. Condon said they hoped to have Meloni certified for 113, but he ended up at 120.
Condon said several kids in the county, Meloni included, were scheduled to appeal, but never got the chance after the appeals were canceled because of weather last week. They were never rescheduled, he said.
“He’s going to be bumped up a little,” Condon said. “We’ll juggle our lineup and do the best we can. We have some quality starters at almost every weight. We have very few holes in the lineup.”
Shoreham returns a two-time all-league wrestler in Max Goldfarb, who placed third in the league tournament the past two years at 195. He’ll return at the same weight this season.
Other returnees include Ray Lopez at 145, David Keith at 152, Troy Miller at 160 and Mike Neidhart at 170.
“We have a lot of individual goals, they vary with each kid,” Condon said. “Many kids want to place in the league tournament, county tournament, state tournament. I tell the kids, set the bar high. Rise to the challenge.”
The Wildcats opened the season Saturday with a tournament at Walt Whitman. Shoreham sent five wrestlers into the finals and Szymanski emerged the lone winner at 126. He pinned Brian Barry of Sachem North in the finals in 19 seconds.
Meloni, Miller, Pirraglia and Goldfarb all fell in the finals. Szymanski finished with the most pins in the least time, four in 4:56.
The dual-meet season was scheduled to begin Wednesday with a non-league match at Bellport. The league season begins Thursday at Mount Sinai.
The Riverhead wrestling team faced its share of adversity last season. A young team without much experience, the Blue Waves faced a rough road in the competitive League IV. At the league tournament, the Blue Waves finished in last place and did not have a wrestler reach the finals.
A year later, things are already looking up for the Blue Waves.
Riverhead opened the season Saturday with a tournament at East Hampton that featured some tough competition in the form of Hauppauge, Ward Melville and Westhampton. The Blue Waves sent four wrestlers into the finals, all in the lower weight classes and two were champions. The Blue Waves finished fourth as a team.
Ed Matyka (113) and Cody Weiss (120) both won their weight classes. Kerry Thomas (106) and Brandon Elroumy (120) finished second.
In total, the Blue Waves had 10 wrestlers finish in the top four. Chris Flood was third at 106 and Christian Williams was third at 285.
Matyka was an all-league wrestler two years ago at 99 as an eighth-grader. Entering the season, he’s the top-ranked Blue Waves wrestler. He’s currently ranked sixth in the county at 106.
Weiss is also a former all-league finisher. He was second at the league tournament two years ago at 106.
Riverhead will wrestle at an invitational at North Babylon Dec. 21. The league dual-meet season begins Jan. 3 against one of the top teams in the county in Hauppauge.