Wrestling: Warriors poised to reach new heights
The Wilton wrestling team begins the season today with the most returning State Open qualifiers — four — in program history.
It will almost certainly be the first of many milestones the Warriors reach in what should be a special season.
The possibilities set forth by head coach John Foldeak — winning a division championship, top-five finish at the Class L meet, getting as many as six State Open qualifiers, multiple New England qualifiers — would have seemed absurd a few years ago.
Now it’s up to the Warriors to make it happen, he said.
“The kids know. The ball’s in their court. Do you want to leave your mark? We have three seniors. How do they want to be remembered? Do you want to be remembered as one of the best if not the best team Wilton’s ever had?” he said. “This is a very, very good team.”
Depth is still a concern when it comes to dual meets, but Foldeak said there are enough points in the lineup to compile a winning record, and maybe win the FCIAC East Division title.
“We should definitely be in the mix,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of depth this year. Any injury can absolutely wipe our season out. We have to stay healthy.”
The Warriors are anchored by a strong core with the four returning State Open qualifiers — senior captains Zach Zeyher, Nick Rende and Finn McGovern, and junior Travis Longo. Those four combined for 129 wins last season.
Zeyher, a two-year captain, is the defending FCIAC champ at 170 pounds — Wilton’s first
FCIAC champ in 14 years. Last year he finished 34-8 and also placed fourth in Class L and reached the quarterfinals at the Open.
Zeyher, a two-time State Open qualifier, will be wrestling at 170 pounds again this season.
Despite missing most of his freshman season, Zeyher enters the season with a 78 career wins. Barring injury he should reach 100 wins sometime midway through the season.
That would give the Warriors two 100-win wrestlers on the same team for the first time ever. Rende passed the century mark last season as a junior, and begins his final season with a remarkable career record of 103-22.
Last year, Rende was 35-7, placing third at both the FCIAC and Class L meets, before winning three matches at the Open.
Rende, who will open the season at 126 pounds, is looking to qualify for the State Open for the fourth straight year.
McGovern has come on strong the last two seasons, with 43 wins. He was 25-17 last season, placing sixth at the Class L meet and winning two matches at the Open, and keeps getting better.
McGovern will start the season at the 120-pound bracket.
Longo is coming off an incredible sophomore season that saw him go 35-5 at 106 pounds and finish third in both the FCIAC and Class L. He came painfully close to qualifying for New Englands, on an overtime loss at the State Open.
Already a two-time Open qualifier, Longo has a career record of 52-18. He will wrestle at 113 pounds this year.
Foldeak is looking for big things from another returner, Jacob Robb, who moves up several weight classes, from 160 to 182, and has continually improved.
Other returners include sophomore Dom Caratozzolo (132 pounds), junior Sabrina Hartz (138 pounds), senior Seth Warren (160 pounds), junior Tyler Previte (195 pounds), and senior Ethan Helman (220).
Unfortunately, returning sophomore Griffin Morris, who was seventh in the FCIAC at 182 pounds last year, will miss the season due to an injury suffered during the football season.
Key newcomers are freshman Max Mannino, a place winner at last year’s youth state championships, who will start at 103 pounds; and sophomore Stephen Kendra, a first-year wrestler who will vie for the 220-pound spot.
Foldeak isn’t sure how the 145-, 152- and 285-pound weight classes will pan out for the team, but feels the potential to rack points in dual meets is enough to overcome that.
He said with the team’s top four winning their matches almost every dual meet, the Warriors can count on at least four or five wins.
“We just have to win two or three more matches. If we can, we’ll win the dual,” he said. “We should do well in tournaments. We should be placing four to six kids at every tournament, and some of them will be finalists or champs.”
Foldeak fully expects the Warriors to improve on their ninth-place finishes at last year’s FCIAC and Class L tournaments — and wouldn’t rule out a top-five finish at the class meet.
He also thinks the team can not only qualify four wrestlers for the Open for the third straight year but actually see five or six make it this season.
Last year’s showing at the State Open (29.5 points, 10 wins) was Wilton’s best ever, and Foldeak is confident the Warriors will top that this season.
And with a top four as strong as the group of Zeyher, Rende, McGovern and Longo, he is very confident the Warriors will qualify a wrestler for New Englands for the first since since 1993.
“We’ve been so close with so many of the wrestlers over the years,” he said. “This year I hope to bring multiple kids to New Englands, with the three seniors and the junior. They are very talented kids.”