Preview: Westerly wrestling

Preview: Westerly wrestling



Head coach: Al Gaccione (14th season). Assistant coaches: Rob Cross (volunteer), Dennis Stone (volunteer).

Last year: With a roster that averaged about seven wrestlers per meet, the Bulldogs went 5-26 overall and 3-12 in Division I-North.

Returning to varsity:

Seniors: Ethan Kadar (138), Brady Holdredge (152), Jacob Schafer (145). Sophomore: Judea Balmonte (195).

New to varsity:

Freshman: Brian Garcia (126).

Outlook: Filling out the roster has always been a problem for Westerly, but this year’s group is the smallest in Gaccione’s tenure. By forfeiting so many weight classes, the Bulldogs won’t win any dual meets or tournaments so they’ll focus on individual success.

“The guys we have are the guys that want to be here,” Gaccione said. “All the guys in the practice room are going to get better because they wrestle coaches every day. We’ll look to control the head-to-head matches, to control what we can on the mat.”

Holdredge, who moves up to 152 this year, was a second-team All-Division I-North performer last season. He went 36-7 with 24 pins and finished fourth at the state meet. Gaccione is also expecting solid seasons from Kadar (28-11 in 2016-17) and Schaefer, who returns to the team after going 14-6 as a sophomore.

“When we go to tournaments, we’re looking to put three guys on the podium,” Gaccione said. “Those three guys are capable of being top three in the state, if not better.”

As for the numbers problem, Gaccione is hopeful — but not confident — that more will join the team this season. He added that he’s optimistic about the future, noting that Westerly’s youth program is “building back up again.”

“It’s a tough sport,” the coach said. “A lot of kids don’t want to put forth the effort that it takes in wrestling. It takes a lot of dedication. I’ve found when [kids] do try it, they fall in love with the sport. It just scares them off not knowing.”

Coach’s take: “Things have been simplified for us. It’s an individual sport for us. We’re going to go out there looking to bang heads and get wins every match individually. I think we can have finalists for most of our tournaments. Come states, we’ll set our goals for the top 10.”

Ken Sorensen


 
 
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