Wrestling preview: Positive signs for Wilton

Max Mannino was one of five Wilton wrestlers who placed at the Mike O’Keefe Holiday Invitational.

Max Mannino was one of five Wilton wrestlers who placed at the Mike O’Keefe Holiday Invitational.

Gretchen McMahon / For Hearst Connecticut Media

In terms of numbers, the 2019-20 season is already a success for the Wilton wrestling team.

With 19 wrestlers on the roster, Wilton should be able to fill nearly all weight classes and also have much more competitive practices. Those are encouraging steps for a team that entered last season with only seven wrestlers and was down to six by time the postseason began.

“It’s a big help,” said second-year head coach Tom Ferrell about his team’s improved depth. “We have a good balance of experienced wrestlers and new kids who are pretty athletic.”

Wilton’s top returnee is junior Max Mannino, who placed fourth at FCIACs and sixth in Class L at 113 pounds last season. Mannino will move up to 120 pounds this year.

Also back are sophomore Quinn Kiss, who returns at 152 pounds, and senior Dom Caratozzolo, who will likely start at 160 pounds.

The most impactful newcomer could be sophomore Luke Pagano-Walley, an experienced youth wrestler who did not compete for the Warriors last winter. Pagano-Walley is expected to start at 126 pounds, although he and Mannino could flip weight classes.

“Those two can be top-six in the FCIAC and Class L,” Ferrell said about Mannino and Pagano-Walley. “And they will be able to help each other improve by training together in practices; Max didn’t have anyone to work with last year.”

Wilton’s other starters look to be freshman Max Scolnik (113 pounds), junior Tommy Harris (138), sophomore Leeland Wilf (145), junior Brian Curley (170), junior Howie Long (182), sophomore Eddie Keller (195), and junior Kyle Jordan (220).

Two first-year wrestlers, sophomores Kieran O’Neill and Joe Schiavone, are vying for the starting spot at 285 pounds.

“I think we can fill at least 12 of the 14 weight classes,” Ferrell said. “That’s much better than last year.”

Wilton also has depth, with sophomore Michael Arbisi (138 or 145 pounds) and senior Nick Lin (120 or 126) both having started matches last season. Other options include four newcomers: Sophomores Michael Breen (195 or 220) and Jimmy Luce (195) and freshmen Liam Pearsall (113 or 120) and Phillip Shim (132 or 138).

“One of our goals was to build more interest and get more kids out for the team,” Ferrell said. “I think we are starting to do that.”

Notes: Wilton opens the season Wednesday against Westhill in Stamford.

The Warriors have only three home meets this winter: Jan. 8 (vs. McMahon, Darien, Fairfield Warde, and St. Joseph); Jan. 29 (vs. Stamford); and Feb. 11 (vs. New Canaan).

Wilton finished 13th at the FCIAC championships and 23rd in Class L last season.