ROBERT O’ROURK FILE PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River senior T.J. Fabian enters the season ranked No. 1 in the county at 126.
Duplicating the success of last season would seem practically impossible for Shoreham-Wading River.
Three all-state wrestlers.
League tournament championship.
Undefeated dual meet season.
No, the Wildcats may not be as stacked as last year — but they’ll still be a force to be reckoned with, led by senior T.J. Fabian.
“We’re trying to stay in the same positive direction,” said Shoreham coach Joe Condon. “I think the 11 seniors that graduated, pretty much who we had since kindergarten, left a good impression. The older guys last year worked with [the younger guys] a lot and I think they’re going to try to follow suit.”
Fabian is the leader and most accomplished wrestler in the room for Shoreham. After finishing second in the county tournament last year, he made the most of an at-large bid to the state tournament by placing fourth at 120 pounds. This season he’ll bump up to 126, where he’ll be one of the favorites to win a county title and return to Albany for the state championship.
Fabian had a busy offseason, wrestling in tournaments all across the region.
“He sought out everyone he could,” Condon said. “He got about 55-60 matches in the offseason. He lifted weights. He’s dedicated himself and I think he has improved.”
Fabian is a wrestler who can score from any position and “doesn’t really have any weak areas,” Condon said.
While Fabian is an outstanding individual wrestler, his impact on the team is also felt in the way he helps guide the younger wrestlers.
“He does train very hard, but he always has time for the other kids,” Condon said. “It’s been a blessing having him on the team.”
Fabian is one of seven starters in the lineup who are returning this season.
One of the key returnees in the lower weights is James Szymanski, who was a league finalist at 99 last season. He’ll wrestle 106 this season and Condon said he has a chance to win a county title. Szymanski is currently ranked fifth in the county.
Fabian and Szymanski are the only Shoreham wrestlers currently in the top six in the county. Fabian is ranked No. 1 at 126, ahead of Hauppauge senior Mark West. Huntington junior Corey Jamison could factor in at 126 as well, although he’s currently ranked No. 1 at 120.
Chris Meloni returns to wrestle at 113 for the Wildcats. He was a fourth-place finisher in the league tournament last season to just miss qualifying for the state tournament.
“We’re looking for some big things from Chris,” Condon said.
Jack Taddeo, a third-place finisher in the league as an eighth-grader, returns to wrestle 120. Taddeo is off to a fast start this season with a 5-1 record.
Troy Miller, who’s reached the finals of a tournament already this season, will wrestle 138. David Keith will wrestle 145. He was an all-league wrestler two years ago. Ryan Stern, one of the senior leaders, will wrestle 152.
“He’s an excellent all-around athlete,” Condon said. “His athletic ability alone and his drive I think is going to help him have a good chance to place in the leagues and possibly place in the counties.”
Mike Neidhart, younger brother of former all-state wrestler T.J. Neidhart, will wrestle 170. Neidhart was stuck behind two all-state wrestlers last year, otherwise he would have been consistently in the lineup. Condon said Neidhart could have started on most teams last year.
Dominic Pirraglia was league finalist last year and will wrestle 182 again this season. Max Goldfarb returns to wrestle 195 after placing third in the league last year.
“He’s hoping to win the league title this year,” Condon said. “That’s his goal.”
The Wildcats have had to deal with some injuries in the heavyweights, some that happened before wrestling season.
The Wildcats will compete in a competitive League VI that features two strong teams in Rocky Point and Westhampton Beach. Condon said he thought those two teams would be the favorites. John Glenn, Mount Sinai and Miller Place all typically have strong programs. Sayville moved up a league and East Hampton came in as the only addition this season.
Shoreham opened the dual meet season Dec. 13 with a 64-6 victory over Bellport. In a tournament at Walt Whitman Dec. 8, Fabian was the only champion, but the Wildcats had nine wrestlers in the top three.
“Our kids have worked very hard, they’re very dedicated and a committed group of kids,” Condon said.