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12/22/10 10:30am
12/22/2010 10:30 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Christian Krumbiegel at wrestling practice this week.

While the Riverhead Blue Waves had four wrestlers reach the finals of the North Babylon Tournament on Saturday, their coach, Wade “Rocky” Davey, said he was disappointed with his team’s overall performance so far this season.

Riverhead had two champions Saturday. Pat Thomas topped North Babylon’s Ryan O’Brien, 6-2, in the 140-pound final. At 171 pounds, the Blue Waves’ Mario Carrera won a 9-4 decision over Freeport’s Kevin Sanchez in their title bout.

“Beating Sanchez, a returning all-county wrestler, was a big win for Carrera,” said Davey.

Riverhead’s Christian Krumbiegel (135 pounds) and Anthony Infantolino (112) were runners-up in their weight classes.

Two other Riverheaders, Riverhead’s Ryan Gevinski (96) and Shawn Yarborough (285) placed third, while teammate Dan Normoyal (125) finished fourth.

The early-season tournaments are designed to prepare wrestlers for the league part of the schedule. Davey has not liked what he has seen. “I am disappointed so far,” he said. “The kids are not wrestling up to my expectations. More time on the mat will help them.”


12/21/10 3:09pm
12/21/2010 3:09 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | An exhausted Charles Bartlett took a brief rest during training in the Riverhead wrestling room.

Hot and smelly, the Riverhead High School wrestling room is not a pleasant place to spend a couple of hours — and that’s just for a visitor. To the wrestlers who toil in this sweatbox, it is the site of their daily struggle to keep up with the competition.

The wrestling room is not built for comfort. Its purpose is to prepare Riverhead’s wrestlers for the rigors of a sport in which a direct link can be drawn between work ethic and success. The training sessions that are held between these walls can best be described as grueling. The Riverhead Blue Waves have a reputation for tough practices in which wrestlers are continually pushed to the limit. Some have even compared it to military training.

“That’s what it is,” Riverhead senior Christian Krumbiegel said. “It’s boot camp, getting ready for war.”

As much as some wrestlers may hate it, they also recognize that the work done in the wrestling room is vital to their fortunes. One could apply all the usual clichés: no pain, no gain; if it doesn’t kill you it will make you stronger; there are no shortcuts to success. They are all apropos.

“If you want to get better, you have to go hard,” Riverhead senior Pat Thomas said. “It’s everything. It’s absolutely everything. If you’re not going hard here, it just shows on the mat. Every little thing that you don’t do here is going to be exacerbated 30 times [in a] match.”

That point is pounded into them during practices as Riverhead Coach Wade “Rocky” Davey tells them they must handle this training as if it was a match and exhorts his wrestlers not to get tired. “Getting tired is kind of like giving up,” Davey said. “You got to be stronger than getting tired. You got to have a will to work harder than what your mind is telling you.”

Of course, the truth is fatigue is a reality, and wrestlers must find the strength to overcome it. Following a typical practice last Thursday, Krumbiegel and Thomas, who are training partners, were so tired that they asked to be allowed to sit on the mat, with their backs against a wall, while being interviewed.

“You’re always tired, but you got to fight through it,” said Ryan Gevinski, a freshman in his first varsity season who noted that he was “shocked” when he learned how difficult Riverhead’s practices were.

Krumbiegel said: “Your body gets used to it, but you can’t really get used to it. Every day you’re just tired. You just go in, you just got to do what you got to do, and you just push through it mentally. As you keep doing it and doing it, you start building self-discipline. Your mind tells you, ‘No,’ but you keep telling yourself that you got to go hard.”

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Riverhead Coach Wade "Rocky" Davey supervised while Nick Keitel, left, and Christian Krumbiegel wrestled. Pat Thomas sat, awaiting his turn on the mat.

As tough as wrestling is physically, it also requires a certain mentality. The Blue Waves are doing more than building their strength and honing their wrestling skills; they are also building an attitude.

“If you don’t develop good work ethics, which you should by working hard in this room, then your attitude doesn’t develop, either, and attitude is a big part of wrestling,” Davey said. “If you don’t have the attitude to be a champion, you’re not going to be one, and I don’t know any guy out there who’s winning easily. You got to work hard to win.”

Davey, who coached at Suffolk County Community College and Shoreham-Wading River High School before coming to Riverhead, said the format of his practices has remained the same over the years. What has apparently changed, however, is the difficulty of the practices. “Has it gotten easier over the years? Absolutely,” Davey said. “I think that’s the change of society. I mean, our kids — I hate to say this — are softer now than they were 20 years ago. They absolutely are.”

The wrestling room is where championships are won. Riverhead was a double winner last season, taking first place in Suffolk County League IV as well as in the league tournament.

To the Blue Waves, the hard work they do is the price to be paid for winning. Some might also see the demanding practices as a confidence-builder.

“The first year, your freshman year, it’s like hard and you’re like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t do this,’ ” Thomas said. “But if you keep yourself in the game mentally, you can do anything you want. You got to believe in yourself. That’s basically what wrestling is all about.”

If the Blue Waves need added motivation, all they have to do is look up at one of the walls bearing the names of the team’s county and league champions. Eighty-eight Blue Waves have won league championships (seven did so three times) and 24 have won county titles.

Davey said the training mind-set that wrestlers develop is like a disease in the sense that it becomes obsessive. For example, the training day for the Blue Waves didn’t end with the conclusion of last Thursday’s practice. Many were expected to run or work out again later that night.

Fear of opponents gaining an edge by training harder has created a conditioning arms race of sorts. That explains the commitment of wrestlers like Thomas, who said, “This is my life right here.”

That fear of losing is a motivator.

“Winning is what motivates you,” Krumbiegel said. “When you win on the mat, it’s like no other feeling. You want to keep experiencing that over and over.”

As for training, he said, “I love it, but I hate it.”

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12/14/10 3:32pm
12/14/2010 3:32 PM

It was an impressive way to begin the season.

The Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats wrestling team had three champions and another three wrestlers place second in the Walt Whitman Tournament on Saturday. T. J. Fabian won the 112-pound weight class while Zak Mullen was victorious at 140 and John Keck captured the 152-pound title.

Fabian, a sophomore, pinned his own teammate, Troy Miller, in the final in 59 seconds. It was Fabian’s fifth pin and gave him the tournament’s most pins in the least time.

“T. J. is always ready,” Shoreham-Wading River Coach Joe Condon said. “He works hard. He is all business.”

Condon praised Miller, a freshman, for reaching the final in his first tournament.

Mullen dominated Sachem North’s Nick Iannello, winning a 12-2 decision. Keck pinned West Babylon’s Jon Gonzalez in 31 seconds.

“John took his man down and never let him up,” Condon said. “He was so focused this was like a business trip for him.”

In addition to Miller’s runner-up finish, the Wildcats’ James Syzmanski, an eighth-grader, was pinned by Walt Whitman’s Joe Calderone at 2:49 in the 96-pound final. Condon said Syzmanski’s performance against a top-flight opponent was “excellent.”

In the 215 final, Walt Whitman’s Luke Rise pinned the Wildcats’ Bryan Antonoff at 3:49.

“This was Bryan’s first time in the finals and it was a very impressive performance,” Condon said. “This was a big thing for him.”

Four Shoreham-Wading River wrestlers — Kevin Warner (103), Ryan Stern (130), Dom Pirraglia (160) and Mike Sanders (189) — placed third. Finishing in fourth place for the Wildcats were Zach Sperling (119), Asael Romero (135), Tom Valentine (145) and Joe Longo (171).

David Keith (103) had a fifth-place finish, while Wildcat teammates Steve Corso (125) and Joe Bennett (145) came in sixth.

Condon reiterated how impressive this early showing was by his team, especially in light of heavyweight competition like Sachem North, Walt Whitman, West Babylon, Port Washington, Uniondale and North Babylon.

“If you want to get better, you can’t avoid tough competition,” Condon said. “It is still early, but we utilized what we’ve been working on. We have high expectations. This was good for us to do against tough competition. This is something to build on.”

12/08/10 10:39am
12/08/2010 10:39 AM

ROBERT O'ROURK FILE PHOTO | Anthony Infantolino, right, will wrestle at 112 pounds for Riverhead.

Any team that takes the Riverhead Blue Waves for granted this season may be in for a rude awakening.

While the Blue Waves were hit hard by graduation, the defending Suffolk County League IV champions are still loaded with talent.

The Blue Waves (14-3 last season) are led by five seniors Christian Krumbiegel (125 pounds), Patrick Thomas (125), Gabe Rice (145), Joe Menna (160), and Mario Carrera (171). Also helping out are juniors Anthony Infantolino (112) and Shawn Yarborough (285) as well as sophomores Kevin Thomas (96), Keith Miles (103) and Evan Primm (117).

“We lost a lot of good kids, but we have a nice nucleus to work with,” Riverhead Coach Wade “Rocky” Davey said. “We should be competitive.”

Davey said Krumbiegel has “an unbelievable amount of stamina and power. He is that strong, that explosive. He’s tough to beat.”

Patrick Thomas, Davey said, “is the ultimate definition of a wrestler. He eats and sleeps wrestling and he is reaping the rewards for that hard work and dedication.”

Davey said Rice has “without a doubt the best potential of the bunch. He is very polished and has a killer instinct.”

With talented teams like the North Babylon Bulldogs and West Babylon Eagles on the schedule, Davey said his team has to avoid “burning out.”

“We have to keep our focus and drive alive the whole season,” he said. “Realistically, we add something new every day, every week. It takes a while, but our goal is to build for the league tournament.”

The Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats (1-21) look to be improved this season.

The Wildcats will be led by sophomore T. J. Fabian, who was a league champion at 96 pounds and placed third in the county last season.

Seniors T. J. Kluber (119), Kyle Reinhardt (160) and Mike Sanders (189) are being counted on along with juniors John Keck (145), Zak Mullen (135), Tom Valentine (140), Joe Bennett (152), Joe Longo (171) and Bryan Antonoff (215). Others expected to figure prominently in the team’s plans are sophomores Ryan Stern (130), Sean Logan (125), Kevin Warner (103), Pete Anderson (152), Dylan Busch (215) and Jason Ambrosini (285), freshmen David Keith (103), Dom Pirraglia (160), Leo McDonnell (140) and Max Goldfarb (171), and eighth-grader James Szymanski (96).

Wildcats Coach Joe Condon said his young team gained vital experience last season.

“These kids trained with the system and worked hard,” he said. “We are young, but we have a lot of experience.”

With strong opponents like the Longwood Lions, Brentwood Indians, Sachem Flaming Arrows and William Floyd Colonials, Condon is looking for more depth on his team.

“We want to keep improving and have more wins,” he said. “We want to go after league titles, county titles and state titles. But to do that, we must stay healthy and the kids have to be willing to do what it takes to be successful. It takes sacrifice and dedication. That competitive spirit has to stay where it is.”

12/07/10 1:26pm
12/07/2010 1:26 PM

ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | Christian Krumbiegel of Riverhead, top, went 32-4 and won his first league championship last season.

Christian Krumbiegel knows there are no shortcuts to the hard, grueling work that high school wrestlers such as himself must endure to build the stamina they need. Of course, that doesn’t mean that Krumbiegel likes it. He doesn’t.

The Riverhead High School senior said one never gets accustomed to the demanding training sessions. “It’s pretty tough,” Krumbiegel, wearing a blood-stained shirt, said after his team’s two-hour scrimmage with the Sachem North Flaming Arrows last Thursday in the steamy Riverhead wrestling room. “Every practice is like a mini wrestling season. You just hate it.”

No, it isn’t the training that Krumbiegel cares for, but the end result of what that training can bring. It can brings wins and championships.

Krumbiegel got a taste of both last season when he finished with an impressive 32-4 record and was a league champion for the Suffolk County League IV champion Blue Waves. A wrestler since he was a seventh-grader and a varsity team member since he was freshman, Krumbiegel is under no misconception about what enabled him to reach that level.

“It’s just the hard work, that’s it,” he said. “It’s no secret. If you put in the hard work, you’ll come out on top.”

As much as he may detest it at times, Krumbiegel doesn’t shy away from the training he must do to compete at a high level. He has earned a reputation for putting himself in a position to win through conditioning.

“His conditioning is going to win a lot of matches for him,” one of Riverhead’s assistant coaches, Tom Riccio, said. “He’s going to outwrestle people just because he’s going to be in top condition.”

One of Riverhead’s two returning league champions (Gabe Rice is the other), Krumbiegel is moving up a weight class this season from 125 to 130 pounds. He is actually returning to the 130-pound weight class, which he wrestled at as a sophomore. The decision to wrestle at 130 as a sophomore might have been the wrong one, though. Krumbiegel lost in the league quarterfinals that season, and might have advanced further had he wrestled at 125. “He was in the wrong weight class,” said Riverhead Coach Wade “Rocky” Davey.

Krumbiegel learned from his mistake and competed at 125 last season, setting the stage for his first league championship.

In order to reach last season’s league final, Krumbiegel defeated his teammate and training partner, Pat Thomas, in the semifinals. “It was definitely tough because he knew everything I do, and I know everything he does, so it was kind of like a stalemate the whole time,” said Krumbiegel.

Perhaps the only disappointment for Krumbiegel last season came in the form of his first-round loss in the county tournament. That serves as inspiration, though. He is shooting for a top three finish in the county this season.

Known more for his quickness and strength than his technique, Krumbiegel brings another quality to the wrestling mat: patience.

“I try to set the pace for myself,” he said. “I’ll go after it if it’s there, but I’m not really going to force anything. If people make a mistake, I’m going to try to capitalize on it.”

Davey said Krumbiegel is stronger mentally and physically, and ready for a big season.

“He will be a force,” Davey said. “He’s so powerful. He’s not our slickest wrestler, but he probably is our most powerful wrestler.”

“He’s going to be a hard kid to beat because he’s hard to take down,” the coach continued. “You can’t hold him down. I’ve never seen him held down, never.”

Asthma hasn’t held Krumbiegel down, either. He said his asthma hasn’t really been an issue since he was a freshman. “It’s not like a really big factor now,” he said. “I kind of grew out of it.”

It didn’t prevent Krumbiegel from going 24-0 as an eighth-grader.

In the race to out-train his opponents, Krumbiegel works out six or seven days a week (“Sometimes [Davey] gives us off on Saturday,” he said). He also runs a lot on his own time. What drives him?

“It’s actually a disease because you got to be sick to be in here,” Davey said. “I think it almost becomes addictive. It’s a drive for success.”

Krumbiegel said the experience of receiving a league champion medal has given him confidence, but he is on guard against overconfidence.

Krumbiegel said he is looking forward to the first match of the season. “The first match is going to be fun,” he said. “When the season starts up and running, then everything is just like easy sailing.”

Until then, the hard work continues.

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11/30/10 11:34pm
11/30/2010 11:34 PM

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Matt Stetler, below, is one of three seniors who will not get to wrestle for Bishop McGann-Mercy this season.

The Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School wrestling program has been dumped.

The school’s athletic director, Paula Nickerson, recently informed the Monarchs’ longtime coach, Jeff Gatz, that the program has been dropped after only five wrestlers showed an interest in the program.

“This was not a monetary issue,” Nickerson said. “Section XI has a minimum number of wrestlers [six] you have to have on the team and we did not have enough interest.”

McGann-Mercy did not win a match last season, going 0-9 overall and in Suffolk County League VII.

Gatz, who has coached the Monarchs for the past 13 seasons, said he was “disappointed” with the decision.

McGann-Mercy has historically had a difficult time putting enough wrestlers on the mat to have a competitive team.

“We’ve always had between six and 12 wrestlers,” Gatz said. “I felt we could have fielded enough weight classes, but I have no say in this.”

Gatz said he is especially disappointed for his three seniors — Matt Stetler (125 pounds), Ryan Heimroth (152) and Matt Delandro (161).

“These are three kids that were supposed to place this year,” Gatz said. “The parents are upset.”

Nickerson said she took a survey and there was more interest in the newly added boys winter track program than in wrestling. She said, “We didn’t expect this.”

Gatz said it would be difficult to bring the wrestling program back in the future.

“It will be hard to get this reinstated,” he said. “With no program, it is hard to attract kids. If we do get reinstated, we start back at the junior varsity level for a year, then move up to varsity. Right now, we’re a little upset.”