Local wrestling squads expect big things this season

Two local wrestling teams held a scrimmage Saturday afternoon at Shoreham-Wading River high school in an effort to grapple with some different opponents and prepare for the upcoming league season. 

Riverhead is coming off a tough year in League I with a record of 0-6. But with most of their starters returning, there’s some optimism coming into the season.

“We only graduated two seniors last year,” Riverhead head coach Jake Benedetto said. “So everyone’s back and they’re all pretty much juniors now.”

Though the Blue Waves roster numbers may be low compared to the other teams around League I, the talent level they have in house should allow them to compete with anyone. 

Zachary Gevinski, a freshman, comes into varsity as a very polished competitor. “He’s wrestled his whole life,” Benedetto said. “He’s a very accomplished wrestler and has won many tournaments over the years. He’s a freshman but it’s not a real freshman experience level.” Gevinski will wrestle at 101 pounds for the Blue Waves.

Benedetto expects a handful of his wrestlers to not only compete in the Suffolk County individual tournament after the league season but also place high. Some of those wrestlers are Christopher Ramos (116 pounds), Jared Knight (131), Macklin Jordan (131), John LaCorte (138), Brody Reister (138), Axel Lopez (145), William Stackevicius (152), Colby Baran (170), Kyle Cuevas (190), Everett Foster (215) and David Castillo (285.)

Many of the returning wrestlers attended Army Ranger Intensive Camp in West Point during the summer. The results were apparent.

“They live like a cadet,” Benedetto said. “They get woken up at 5 a.m. by a drill instructor and run up hills and wrestle three times a day. They dedicated a week of their summer to intensive training so we can only hope it’s going to pay off.”

As a freshman last year, Baran won two tournaments and placed in all the other ones as well. His potential impact this year has only grown. LaCorte battled some injuries last season and Benedetto expects him to bounce back and be a major contributor. Castillo is a transfer coming in from Southampton High School. The junior placed third in his weight class at the Suffolk County tournament last year.

“I just want to prove to the rest of the team that the culture we instill as coaches is working,” Benedetto said. “We put an offseason program together, we did a lift program, I teach how to diet the right way and sleep the right way and now we’re beginning to win. You have to teach the program from the bottom up so that when they’re seniors, the fruits of their labor is apparent.”

Knight is the team’s lone senior this year and his improvement from sophomore to senior year is what Benedetto wants the rest of the team to emulate. Knight only won two matches his sophomore season. 

“Knight did everything I ever asked of him,” Benedetto said. “Every camp, every club, every lift, and just listened and bought into the system that I preached. His junior season he got 17 wins and placed in every tournament. Our goal for him this year is 25 wins and All-League. That’s what I want every guy’s progression in here to be.”

Riverhead will open its league season Dec. 13 against Walt Whitman.

Shoreham-Wading River graduated seven members of last year’s team that finished second in League VII with a 3-1 record. But their two most accomplished wrestlers return to bolster a squad looking to win the league title and compete for some New York State individual championships.

Gavin Mangano, an eighth grader last year, won the Suffolk County tournament and made it all the way to the state finals in the 110-pound weight class. Mangano ultimately ended up losing by one point in the finals against Darren Florance, a junior hailing from BGAH high school upstate near Binghamton.

Mangano will wrestle in the 118-pound weight class this season and SWR head coach Joe Condon expects him to again compete for the state title. 

Chris Colon took fifth in the state tournament last year as a junior after winning the Suffolk County championship in his weight class. Colon, who will wrestle at 124 pounds, will be a force to be reckoned with entering his final season as a Wildcat.

“Those two are our two big guns this year,” Condon said. “They’re both very polished wrestlers and I don’t expect either of them to give up many points during the season and should be right back in the thick of things in the state tournament.”

Other wrestlers Condon expects a big impact from include Zack Wilson (215 pounds), Nate Spuhler (170), Frank Pizzi (152), Jacob Conti (145), Brady Kitchen (116), John O’Neil (131), Shane Hall (131), Gio Aliotta (138), Kevin Castro (160), Wes Hoden (285), Shane Cowen (101) and Thomas Mattias (101.)

Wilson and Spuhler each placed fourth in the county tournament last year. The duo are seniors this year and expect to make some noise when that tournament comes around again.

“We have a mix of a lot of experienced veterans but also a lot of new guys with some serious talent,” Condon said. “We’re the smallest school in League VII but we compete with the best of them.

“Being a young team we’re kind of taking a different approach to the beginning of this season,” the coach continued. “We’re doing a lot more teaching this year with the amount of young guys that are on the team. I am super happy with the progression of everyone and they’re buying into the program. You can tell that they’re really committed, and that’s the most important thing.”

Shoreham-Wading River will open their league season Dec. 13 against Bayport-Blue Point.