Shoreham-Wading River High School wrestling coach Joe Condon knows he has a very good core returning for this season and plenty of depth. But can the Wildcats excel enough to overcome the likes of Mount Sinai, a two-time state champion?
“Our goal is to win the [Suffolk] County championship, but it’s still going to be a challenge,” he said. “We have to fill in a couple of weights where we lost some guys and see what we can do and keep everyone healthy.”
Still, it is a challenge many wrestling programs would love to have.
Condon had to wait a few weeks to get his entire squad in the training room due to the football team winning the Long Island Class IV title on Nov. 30.
“They’re all healthy,” he said. “No one was injured in football.”
Condon is buoyed by the fact he has seven wrestlers back who have placed in the county tournament the past few years: junior Connor Pearce (120 pounds), a county champion as a freshman who missed last season due to a concussion; sophomore Tristan Petretti (113), who finished second last season; sophomore Craig Jablonski (106) and junior Sean Miller (145), who both placed third; junior Jake Jablonski (132), who missed last season with a torn ACL after finishing third as a freshman; junior Jake Ekert (193), who took third; and junior Dylan Blanco (220), who finished fourth as a freshman.
Two other wrestlers almost reached the placement round but lost their matches by one point apiece — senior Chris Anderson (132) and junior Connor Mullahey (160).
And that’s not to forget eighth-grader Chris Colon (99), whom Condon called “a very talented wrestler,” and who will make his varsity debut.
“We have a good mix,” Condon said. “We many good young wrestlers; many good ninth- and 10th-grade wrestlers and six seniors returning.”
Condon expects to get senior leadership from Dan Dacos (152), Sean Regan (160) and Connor DeLumen (220). The depth is bolstered by Anthony Giordano (195), Tyler Kitchen (126), a first-year starter, Will Miller (106) and Joe Steimel (113).
“We’re hoping to peak at the right time,” Condon said. “They’re doing everything I ask them to do. I can’t complain. A wonderful group of kids. They take everything as a challenge. They want to set the bar high and try to meet those challenges at the end of the season.”
Riverhead coach Jake Benedetto has liked what he has seen in preseason training in numbers and attitude.
“Not only are my numbers growing, but the number of guys that are buying into what you need to be successful in wrestling,” he said. “We’re a very young team. We’re building a program here, brick by brick. We had a good offseason.”
That included about a dozen wrestlers working and competing in the summer and fall.
Benedetto has two seniors he is counting on — Edwin Elizaibe (195) and Katie Moore (182), one of a few female high school wrestlers in the county.
Since returning from a tournament in Fargo, North Dakota in which she lost in the placement round, Benedetto has seen a different Moore.
“It’s the best I’ve seen her wrestle,” he said. “She’s opening up. She’s more confident in her abilities. I think this is the best I’ve seen it all clicking for Katie.”
Moore has committed to wrestling for a women’s program at Life University in Georgia. “Maybe some pressure has been taken off of her that she can let it rip,” Benedetto said. “Maybe it gave her a boost of confidence that hey, ‘Maybe I am this good.’ ”
Other key returnees include Xavier Moore (106), Katie’s younger brother, Irineo Rangel (126), Dominic Gambino (126) and Michael Penchack (136).
“I am expecting things out of Katie and the guys,” Benedetto said. “The goal is to get out of the league. You return those other guys [next year] and now you’re looking at a team of juniors and seniors at one-two-three-four returning All-League guys with two more years to do something.”
The team has two names that should be familiar to Blue Waves wrestling fans — Brandon Riccio (138), who had stepped away from the sport, but wanted to compete as a senior, and junior Steven Cruz (heavyweight), who will fill the shoes of his brother Ronan, who graduated and placed in the counties last year. David Raynor (120), Lenny Escobar (138), Victor Caba (145) and Andrew Battista (145) also are expected to contribute.
Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River’s Tristan Petretti, right, was a Suffolk County Division II runner-up last season as a freshman. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk, file)