Tonawanda News — North Tonawanda’s wrestling team is young and inexperienced, but there’s a ton of talent within its ranks, according to coach Dan Fire.
He said there a few guys on the squad that will be very competitive this season.
“I got a bunch of good kids that are all eager to learn,” he said. “Let’s face it, this is a one-on-one sport — These are the gladiators of NT as far as I can see. When they’re down on the mat it’s a full go for six minutes, and these guys are up for that challenge and you have to respect that.”
The No. 1 guy for the Lumberjacks is freshman 99-pounder Troy Keller, who opened his season with a 16-1, technical fall victory over Kenmore West’s Franklin Fragal.
Fire said that Keller is lethal on the mat and has a chance to be a very special wrestler.
“Troy has been wrestling for varsity for three years (since seventh grade) and he has over 50 career wins already — halfway to the century mark,” Fire said. “The way he’s been averaging is 25 wins a year. With that trend he’ll hit 100 pretty quick. He’s in a tough weight class this year and there’s a couple boys there that he’ll have to hurdle over.”
Seniors Taylor Eckstein (182 pounds) and Josh Blose (220 pounds) are the team’s only two seniors on the wrestling team this season. Blose was the only other NT wrestler to notch a win in the team’s dual match against Ken West. Fire expects both his seniors to progress and become even better as the season goes on and they learn more about the sport.
Junior 285-pounder Ryan Osbourne came close to earning a sectional patch last season and Fire expects him to be very tough to beat this year, calling him “a true prospect.” Doug George, Will Lizqucaas and Bryce Drake will also be competitive for the Jacks this season.
Fire said that rebuilding with a young team can be a challenge, but one that’s worth the wait.
“It’s a young team but if the nucleus stays together, by the time they’re seniors things should really be looking up for NT,” he said. “We’re building and we’ll take our lumps. I’ve coached for over 30 years and I know what it is to start at the bottom. We did it in ‘95 and when we walked into that program in 1990 it was pretty much the same thing.”
Next up for the Jacks is at Canisius this Friday at 6 p.m.
— Matt Parrino
Kenmore West Blue Devils
Five wrestlers went to states, two seniors were section six champions and the Blue Devils were perfect last season. They finished an undefeated 7-0 in league matches and won the Niagara Frontier League.
But the outlook for this year’s team is a little different. Four of those five wrestlers graduated, including Dillon Caruana, a three-time Section VI champ who is now wrestling at Binghamton University.
Bill Hineman is taking over the reigns as coach at Ken West and is ready to accept the challenge of a program that has had tremendous success.
“We obviously have some guys to replace,” Hineman said. “But we have some guys coming back that had varsity experience last year, so they’re ready to step up and fill some holes for us this year.”
Hineman has been coaching varsity wrestling since 1985, including stops at Penbrook, Frontier and Clarence.
This season, he expects his two captains, Shane Currey and Mark Stucke, to facilitate the Ken West mentality to the younger wrestlers.
“They have stepped up into the leadership role,” Hineman said. “All of our guys were involved in some kind of wrestling in the offseason to get ready for the season.”
Currey finished second in the class last season at 170 pounds and is expected to be the top guy for the Blue Devils this year. Stucke, a junior, will be wrestling at 145 pounds.
Hineman is excited about youngster Anthony Argentieri, a freshman who finished sixth in the section last season at 99 pounds. Argentieri is expected to move up to the 106-pound weight class this season.
The Blue Devils kicked off their season by defeating North Tonawanda, 74-11 on Tuesday. It seems like they are picking up right where they left off from last season.
“We’re right there in the mix and have as good as a shot as anybody to win the NFL,” Hinemand said.
— Jon Gagnon
Five years after coaching wrestling at Sweet Home High School, Jeff Hess has moved on to lead the Tonawanda Warriors this season, where he is an alumnus of the 1996 division championship team.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve had a division champion here,” Hess said. “It’d be nice to raise another banner this year. If not this year, than in the near future.”
The top of the lineup is strong this year for the Warriors. Sophomore Cody McGregor returns after placing fifth in the state last season and already has over 100 career wins. The squad also has three upperclassmen that all finished in the top five of the section last year.
Junior Tim Barnard finished fifth in the section last season and has 97 wins on his career. This year Barnard will be accompanied by his brother, Collin, a senior, who hasn’t wrestled in three years. Hess expects Collin to potentially be one of the strongest wrestlers on the team this season.
As Hess pointed out, the lineup is strong, but being at a small school it is sometimes tough to fill out the roster.
“Right now we have some kids who might be coming out to fill some holes,” Hess said. “If those holes are filled we can go as far as we want to go. I really don’t have any limit on what we can do.”
— Jon Gagnon
St. Joe’s Marauders
After taking last year off, head coach Pete Kennedy returns for his eighth year as coach of the St. Joes varsity wrestling program. Last year’s team finished 4-1 in the league, and 7-21 overall. The Marauders graduated eight seniors, including CHSAA runner-up Pat Mang (38-11), but Kennedy doesn’t see this as a reason the squad won’t compete for a league title this year.
“During the beginning of the season we scheduled some tough non-league matches and it’s really just to try and test ourselves to get ready for the Catholic League,” Kennedy said. “I expect that once our league matches begin we’ll compete for a league title.”
Seniors Travis Berube and Angel Leon will look to earn All-Catholic titles for the Marauders this season. Leon won the title as a freshman and sophomore but was upset in his junior year.
As for Berube, he looks to capture his fourth All-Catholic title and is on pace to break the school record of 116 wins. He currently sits at 88 victories wrestling for St. Joes.
“Travis wants to be a state champion,” Kennedy said. “He’s already won our league three times, he’s already got 100 career wins (including those in middle school), he’s got to get all these milestones and he wants to go out on top.”
— Jon Gagnon
Kenmore East Bulldogs
The Bulldogs are in the midst of a rebuilding stage. After having only seven wrestlers on the roster last season, the team finished with a record of 5-8. This year head coach Joe Kornitzky looks to improve on that mark with a full squad of wrestlers.
“After last year not having enough kids on our squad to win any matches, we’d like to see a huge improvement,” Kornitzky said.
Six of the seven wrestlers from last season are returning to this season’s team, including key contributors in junior Preston Smith, wrestling in the 180-pound class, and sophomore Kurt McGowan, wrestling at 145 pounds. Both wrestlers reached the state qualifiers last year.
“As a sophomore [McGowan] already has 84 wins, we’re looking at he’s going to break 100 wins this year,” Kornitzky said. “That’s a great thing for our school to have someone of that caliber.”
— Jon Gagnon