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New Wildcat Wrestling Center unveiled as SWR seeks to defend county title

Joe Condon was understandably skeptical when he first heard about a plan to relocate the Shoreham-Wading River wrestling team’s gym to a new space. For a storied program, the wrestling room adjacent to the main gym in the high school had become rich with history.

It was where the greats of the program from Jesse Jantzen to Steven Keith poured in countless hours of practice before earning their individual state championships. The history lined the walls with the names and photos of all the top wrestlers spanning close to four decades.

As the varsity coach for 16 years and as a part of the program for 22, Condon has coached many of those wrestlers. As he went over the proposed plan with district administrators and looked at renderings, he realized his team would soon be given the opportunity to have a state-of-the-art facility to call its own.

Condon, wrestlers, Superintendent Gerard Poole, and school board members formally unveiled the new facility known as the Wildcat Wrestling Center during a ceremony Friday, celebrating a project that was first proposed back in 2019.

The new wrestling room is located where a former fitness center was located in a standalone building in the back parking lot. The fitness center closed in 2018 and has been left vacant since the project began on the new wrestling room.

Condon said during the planning phases, input was sought from the wrestling staff on the types of mats, the layout and many other details.

“They did a great job for us, really, they came through big,” Condon said. “It’s beautiful. It’s a stand-alone wrestling facility and a great place for the kids to train. It gives kids a lot more opportunity here at Shoreham-Wading River.”

SWR Superintendent Gerard Poole cuts the ribbon Friday during a ceremony to mark the opening of the new wrestling facility. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)

The gym features a custom mat with a Wildcat logo from TW Promotions, scoreboards, bathrooms, coaches office and a team room where the athletes can store their items, since the gym is separate from the main school building. The team’s competitions will still be held as normal in the main high school gym.

The space is not as large as the previous gym, but Condon said “it’s big enough” for the size team the Wildcats typically have.

The new gym will be open to the district’s youth wrestlers as well as offseason practices for the high school kids.

Condon said the project likely would have been done earlier if not for delays stemming from the pandemic. The coaches and athletes got to see the space come together during the summer and got to use it for the first time in early September. The winter wrestling season formally began last month and the Wildcats’ first competition is Wednesday at Bayport-Blue Point.

The Wildcats are coming off an outstanding season in the abbreviated winter season that began in early 2021. The Wildcats went 9-0 and won the county dual meet wrestling championship, defeating League I champion Brentwood in the finals.

Craig Jablonski, who wrestled 132 last year, is a three-time all-county wrestler who will serve as team captain. Condon said Jablonski is hoping to wrestle at either the Air Force Academy or Naval Academy.

Senior Tristan Petretti, who is a three-time all-county wrestler, returns along with Chris Colon and Will Miller, who are both two-time all-county.

The season returns to a normal schedule this year and wrestlers will once again have a chance to earn a spot to the individual state tournament, which did not happen last year. The Wildcats once again compete in Division II.

“There’s a lot of potential,” Condon said. “A lot of kids who may not be household names in the wrestling community yet, especially with Covid last year being such a small season. I think you’re going to see some good wrestling.”