Featured Story

Wrestling Preview: Wildcats younger, but experienced

Last season the Shoreham-Wading River High School wrestling team’s lineup was loaded with seniors and juniors. Seven starters from that team have moved on, leaving the Wildcats younger. But Shoreham’s youth shouldn’t be confused with inexperience. Just because the names of some wrestlers may be unfamiliar to outsiders, that doesn’t mean they don’t know wrestling.

“Many of our younger wrestlers actually have a lot of experience,” said Joe Condon, who enters his 17th season in the program and 11th as the head coach.

And then there is a big name that has a wealth of varsity experience: John Carl Petretti.

The senior, a two-time league champion, was third in Suffolk County at 152 pounds. He went 37-6 last season and takes a 111-23 career record into the new season.

Condon said Petretti, who will remain at 152 pounds, has worked hard in the offseason, is the team leader in the wrestling room and focused on chasing a state championship.

“He’s one of the best wrestlers that we’ve had,” the coach said. “He’s the full package.”

Freshman Connor Pearce (113 pounds) and senior Cooper Cummings (138, 145) both took third in League VI and junior Eddie Troyano (120) is a former All-League wrestler.

Chris Anderson, a sophomore who started at 99 pounds, has been bounced up to 113. Wes Pase (132), a junior, started most of the season and could be in the lineup along with sophomore Brady Cummings (Cooper’s brother wrestling at 126) and senior Peter Delise (138, 145). Three freshmen — Jake Ekert (160), Dylan Blanco (182, 195) and Connor Hughes (170) — were starters last season.

Another freshman, Jake Jablonski (106), was one win away from All-League status.

Junior Chris Vedder (106) and senior Eamon Reagan (126, 120) are veterans.

More underclassmen are in the mix: Sal LiVigni (182, 195), Liam Daly (195, 225), Sean Miller (120), Sean Reagan (Eamon’s brother at 120), Dan Dacos (126), Connor Mullahey (106), Craig Jablonski (Jake’s brother at 99) and Tristan Petretti (John Carl’s brother at 99).

“They’re great kids,” said Condon, whose team has been dropped down to League VII because of a student population decline. “They really want to work hard. They’re really committed.”

Riverhead’s Mark Matyka competes in the state tournament last season. (Credit: Ray Nelson, file)

For the better wrestlers, the high school wrestling season isn’t a four-month deal. It’s year-round, 12 months a year.

So it is with Riverhead senior Mark Matyka, and the results show.

Matyka was a League III runner-up and Suffolk Division I runner-up last season, gaining entry into his first state tournament as a wild-card recipient at 99 pounds. He lost in the consolation quarterfinals, falling one win shy of All-State recognition, finishing sixth among state public school wrestlers and eighth overall. He went 38-10 last season, bringing his career mark to 82-18.

“He’ll have a better year this year,” said coach Tom Riccio, who was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in April. “I expect him to be the county champion … He’s a driven kid.”

Matyka is ranked fourth in the county at 113 pounds by the coaches, but he is expected to wrestle at 106.

Riverhead’s team is structured differently than it typically is.

“We’re top-heavy,” Riccio said. “It’s something Riverhead never usually has. Riverhead is noted for its lightweights … Our best wrestlers are from 152 up to heavyweight.”

Riverhead has a returning league champion in senior Chris Debose (182). Senior Ralph Gray (145) was third in the league while senior Carlos Perez (220) was fourth. Another senior, Danny Ortez (99), was fourth in the league as a freshman. Two seniors who could make an impact are Joe Wade (140) and Schareef Leonard (285), who has never wrestled before.

The Blue Waves have more talent, too, with Lawrence Bishop (170), Sean Prunty (160), Jared Cawley (126), Erick Vallardares (145), Dominic Bossey (132), Jason Daman (115), Zack Merker (120) and Kenny Ramos (192).

“We’re going to be competitive, if that’s the word to use,” Riccio said. “From 145 all the way up, we’re pretty good.”

[email protected]

Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River senior John Carl Petretti, a two-time league champion, takes a 111-23 career record into the new season. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk, credit)