Westhampton wrestlers you may not have heard of are already making a name for themselves.
After the Hurricanes lost nine seniors to graduation, the grapplers who stood in their shadows are ready to step into their own. Luke Citarelli, Suraj Parel, and Hunter Burling did just that at East Hampton’s Sprig Gardner Individual Tournament December 1.
Head coach Paul Bass was even scratching his head at the fact that he sat seven starters, yet his League VI team still managed to come in second with 221 points to No. 1 Ward Melville (256).
“We had very limited expectations, and weren’t worried about what the team score may be, but we almost won the damn tournament,” he said. “It shows what we’re talking about. We may look like a bunch of no-names but return kids with experience.”
Citarelli, a freshman at 113 pounds, pinned sophomore teammate Benzi Mancino in the finals in 4 minutes, 23 seconds. Sophomore Andrew Caponi competed in the consolation finals at 113, and finished fourth. Seniors Patel, a 132-pounder, and Burling, a 182-pounder, won their finals matches by major decisions, 12-1 over Bayport-Blue Point’s Victor Sandor, 13-0 over Longwood’s Yoskar Beltre, respectively.
Returning to the team are three-time All-League standout Jay Montagna (126 pounds) and league champion Gavin McIntyre (120). McIntyre was bumped up a weight class for the Sprig Gardner tournament, and placed second after a 4-0 decision to Hampton Bays’ Willy Kraus.
McIntyre’s older brother Liam will be heading the squad. He is a standout on the school’s football team who recently won the Carl A. Hansen Award, given to the top high school football player in Suffolk County and named after the former Westhampton Beach High School coach and athletic director. Shifting between 182 and 220, McIntyre is a returning county champion who received All-State and All-American nods as a junior.
“He’s a freak athlete who’s extremely competitive,” Bass said. “He likes to win. I like to call him ‘Showtime’ because the more important the situation, the better he does.”
Sophomores Grant Skala (106) and Will Zaffuto (120) placed third for the Hurricanes in the Sprig Gardner tournament, and Caponi was joined by sophomores Ian Recchion (120) and Christian Specht (145), and senior Cole Henke (152) as competitors who came in fourth. Five others finished in fifth place.
Willy Kraus, a junior who finished fourth in Suffolk County last year, was named Most Outstanding Wrestler at the December 1 tournament. He is also one of head coach Mike Lloyd’s wrestlers to watch at Hampton Bays this year. Kraus, William Krivickas (170), and Kevin Osorio (182) were the only wrestlers to take points in Hampton Bays’ 84-27 nonleague loss to Commack December 5. Kraus and Krivickas pinned their opponents, and Osorio won with a 7-3 decision.
Juniors Nick Pacheco (also at 126) and Nick Corredor (138) were named captains of this year’s team. The pair, along with Kraus, have gone to multiple offseason camps, and according to their coach, it’s showed.
“They’ve definitely put in the time and the effort, and it’s definitely paid off — it’s improved their wrestling,” Lloyd said. “They’ve worked to improve their skills, worked with guys in other rooms and with other teams. Nick Pacheco doesn’t have as many accolades as the rest, but is a tough kid, a leader in the room.”
Joe Gaudiello, a 170-pound junior, has also done well, according to his coach. The two are in talks to see if he could go down to 160 to make him more competitive.
First-year wrestler Kevin Eras, a senior lineman from the football team, competed in his first matches at the Sprig Gardner tournament, and ended up finishing in second place at 285 pounds.
Lloyd was able to gather kids from the junior varsity football team and the middle school wrestling team to fill in the gaps. Freshman Logan Grismer, at 120 pounds, has also been showing potential.
“We’re trying to build a culture and a family atmosphere and it’s coming in time,” Lloyd said. “A couple of years ago, this crop of kids was all new and it was difficult to get them all up to snuff, but having this diversified group that’s a little bit older but a core of sophomores and juniors means good things for this year and next.”
Built Like An Ox
While Hampton Bays was bumped down from League VII to League VIII, Mattituck was moved up from VIII to VII. The Tuckers are without last year’s seniors Luke and Jack Bokinam, who each won state wrestling titles. Mattituck finished 9-11 after going 100-21 the five years prior, winning five straight Suffolk County Division II championships and five league titles in a row. Head coach Cory Dolson did not respond to calls for comment by press time, but told The Suffolk Times that with 10 fewer athletes than normal on his roster, the team will have to forfeit three or four weight classes in dual meets for the first time in his 13 years coaching.
Ethan Schmidt (25-15) and Colby Suglia (26-13) were Suffolk Division II runners-up as sophomores last season. Schmidt will wrestle at 160 or 170 pounds, and Suglia will start at 195 or 220. Dan Puluc, a sophomore, is an All-County wrestler expected to compete at 120 or 126.
East Hampton/Bridgehampton/Pierson will remain in League and compete against big teams like Eastport-South Manor, Hauppauge, and Kings Park, even though it is still struggling to come up with the numbers needed to fill a lineup card.
“There’s always a couple of holes,” head coach Anthony Piscitello said. “I wish more guys would come out.”
Even though the team often goes into a match, trailing 18-0 or 24-0 because of forfeits, the head coach said he tells his wrestlers not to focus as much on the dual meet wins or losses as much as their individual ones, which if records bode well could help some gain higher seeding at the league individual tournament.
“As long as you have a good league tournament you can go to counties and make some noise,” Piscitello said. “It’s really about keeping yourself level, your body in shape, and get your technique ready for league time because that’s really when it all matters.”
He returns 106-pound freshman Santiago Maya, who finished 12-12 last year and placed fourth in the Sprig Gardner tournament.
“He’s going to be very good,” Piscitello said. “I would go as far as to say he’ll be All-County this year, if not definitely next year and going forward. You wouldn’t think he was a freshman looking at him — he acts like a junior or senior. He has great leadership abilities and is always looking to help his teammates. And he works really hard in the wrestling room.”
The coach listed 126-pound freshman Caleb Peralta as up-and-coming. His brother, Mike Peralta, a former Bonacker wrestler, attends every one of his matches to keep him on track.
“He’s a super hungry student of the game, always asking me what he could do better, and he’s a ‘yes coach’ kind of kid,” Piscitello said. “Him and Santi both are always looking to get better and always asking me a million questions.”
Piscitello is also excited for senior 182-pounder Marin Soto and senior 170-pounder David Peralta. Peralta, up a weight class at the Sprig Gardner tournament, also finished fourth.
“They’re both built like an ox, super strong,” the coach said of his seniors. “They’re both guys I wish I got my hands on a couple years earlier, but despite being part of a small group, I’ve got a couple of kids who are really motivated.”
Southampton head coach Lester Ware did not return calls for comment by press time, but last year nearly a third of the Mariners team was made up of freshmen and eighth-graders. Guys like Billy Bockhaus (152 last year) and Anthony Medina (195) return as seniors, and freshmen Mickey Brown (99 last year) and Brad Bockhaus (170) are back with two years of experience already under their belts.