Wrestling: Elite talent, better depth bodes well for Wilton

The 2015-16 season was one of the best ever for the Wilton High wrestling team in every area except one — dual meets.

The Warriors usually lacked the numbers to put a wrestler in every weight class and wound up on the losing end because of too many forfeits.

But with just about every weight class covered this season, Wilton has an excellent chance to improve on last year’s 7-15 record.

“If everyone stays healthy, we won’t be forfeiting five or six matches,” said head coach John Foldeak. “I have a body I can put in every spot. I think we’ll be a little more competitive in the dual meet matches.”

The Warriors open the season Wednesday at home against New Canaan (4:30).

Six wrestlers graduated from last year’s team, but the Warriors return eight wrestlers and add nine newcomers — including four freshmen moving up from the Wilton Youth Wrestling program. The roster bumped up from 15 last year to 17 this season.

The two big losses from last year’s team are State Open qualifier Quinn Reedy, who was 22-10 at 132 pounds and took third at the FCIAC championships and sixth at the Class L tourney, and Jared Gladstein, who was 21-6 and finished second at the FCIAC championships at 182 pounds.

Last season, Wilton sent a team-record four wrestlers to the State Open, and their 41st-place finish may have been the best ever in program history. It was the first time Wilton had more than one State Open qualifier since 2002.

The team also finished 11th at the Class L state championships, the highest finish at the class meet in 22 years, and the second-best showing ever at the meet, with 86 points.

At the FCIAC championships, the Warriors turned in their best finish in 15 years as they finished ninth as a team, with five place finishers and two finalists.

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The Warriors certainly have the returning talent to surpass those accomplishments this season. The team returns three State Open qualifiers in juniors Nick Rende and Zach Zeyher, and sophomore Travis Longo. Also back are seniors Alec Favarolo and Greyson Kennedy, junior Finn McGovern, and sophomores Sabrina Hartz and Jacob Robb.

“We had four kids make it to the Open and three of them are back. We’re looking to improve on last year. If we can have four or five that make it, that would be a nice improvement,” Foldeak said.

Rende and Zeyher, while only juniors, are already established as top wrestlers on the FCIAC and state level. Rende will bump up to 126 pounds this season, while Zeyher also moves up a weight class, to 170.

Rende is coming off a 35-5 season that saw him place second in the Class L state tournament at 120 pounds — Wilton’s first state finalist in 11 years. He qualified for the Open for the second year in a row and reached the quarterfinals. After two seasons he has a record of 66-15.

Zeyher, the team’s junior captain, had a breakout season last year after being sidelined for most of his freshman season by injury. Competing at 160 pounds against mostly older wrestlers, he finished with a 38-12 record — the most wins by a Wilton wrestler in 10 years.

Zeyher finished third at FCIACs and fifth in Class L, before winning two matches at the Open. His pin of Trumbull senior Joey Ryan of Trumbull — the FCIAC and Class L champ — at the Open was one of the highlights of the 2015-16 season.

Longo had a strong freshman season. He reached the FCIAC finals at 99 pounds and placed sixth in Class L at 106 pounds, wrestling up a weight class. Despite giving up 10 pounds all season, he finished with a record of 17-13. This season should be even better, as Longo will be wrestling his true weight at 106 pounds.

Another young wrestler to watch for is McGovern, who was 18-17 at 106 pounds. He was sixth at FCIACs at 106 pounds and notched two wins at the Class L meet despite wrestling up a weight class. Foldeak feels McGovern, who will start at 113 pounds, is capable of making the State Open along with Rende, Zeyher and Longo.

Favarolo finished last season at 8-8, wrestling at 138 and 145 pounds, and won two matches at the Class L meet. This season he will go at either 145 or 152.

Kennedy will start at either 138 or 145, while Robb will move into the spot at 160 pounds and Hartz will most likely wrestle at 132.

Newcomers will fill out the remaining weight classes, including several freshmen with years of wrestling under their belts.

Will Maggio, one of those freshmen, will back up Longo at 106 pounds, while the Warriors are looking at two freshmen, Caleb Forland or Dominick Caratozzolo, to fill the spot at 130. New junior Seth Warren will be in the mix at 160.

At 182 pounds, Wilton will have another freshman, Griffin Morris, and at 195 will go with junior Ethan Helman, who wrestled on the team as a freshman and now attends Wright Tech in Stamford.

The Warriors got a big boost at 220 pounds with the addition of sophomores Tyler Previte and Jack Ferguson. While new to the sport, both are strong athletes in other sports and should make an impact despite having no experience.

Ciaran Smith, another freshman, will wrestle at the 285-pound spot.

“We picked up some good athletes. They don’t have a lot of experience but they definitely make the mat a little better than it was last year,” said Foldeak.
— J.B. Cozens