Wrestling preview: Wilton enters season with untested lineup
With only four returning starters from last year’s team, and a weather-shortened pre-season, Wilton High wrestling coach John Foldeak was still uncertain what team he’d throw out on the mat two days before the season opener.
The Warriors host Westhill today at 6 in the season’s first match.
“I don’t know how the first match will go. I don’t know what Westhill’s got,” he said. “It will be a little bit of a feeling-out process.”
The uncertainty is understandable. Wilton was hit very hard by graduation, losing seven starters in Matt Baxendale, Estevan Garcia, Eric Strazza, Brendan Sweeney, Elliott Broach, Brendan Walsh and Jon Luse — plus several other key wrestlers such as Mac McReynolds and Dan Adams.
Garcia (17 wins), Strazza (17 wins), Broach (12 wins), Luse (12 wins), Walsh (10 wins) and Sweeney (nine) wins take a lot of the team’s win with them.
But the team does have the four returners from a year ago, plus the return of two other former starters who missed last season due to injury.
“It’s kind of a mixed bag. We have youth. We have experience,” said Foldeak. “Hopefully, they’ll develop through the season.”
One big positive is the return of Joey Fraccaroli at the heavyweight spot. The senior co-captain missed last season with an injury.
“He looks great. He’s healthy. He’s excited to wrestle. He’s worked hard in the off-season,” said coach Foldeak. “He’s definitely a big part of our team. He’s really committed himself.”
Fraccaroli had an outstanding sophomore season two years ago, finishing fifth at the FCIAC championships and qualifying for the State Open by placing fourth at the Class L championships. He had 24 wins two years ago, and 18 wins as a freshman.
The Warriors return their top wrestler from last season in Andrew ‘Ace’ Sakamoto, the other senior co-captain who will wrestle at the 152-pound spot.
Sakamoto is coming off an outstanding season where he went 24-15 at 145 pounds, placed fourth at the Class L state wrestling championships, and qualified for the State Open.
“He’s ready to go. He’s a real team leader. He’s just a great kid,” Foldeak said.
In those two captains, Foldeak has two returning place winners from the state championships for the first time in his coaching tenure at Wilton.
Senior Dan Holland, who missed last season with an injury, is also back and will wrestle at 182 pounds. Holland wrestled at 220 pounds two years ago, but has trimmed down significantly and is in great shape.
“He’s real tough. Lots of heart. Great work ethic,” Foldeak said.
Also back is sophomore Quinn Reedy, who will wrestle at 120 pounds. Reedy had a strong freshman season, going 14-11 and just missing a place finish at the state championships at 106 pounds.
“He should be a state place winner this year, we’re hoping,” said Foldeak.
Ken Pokora, a senior, will wrestle at 160 pounds. Last season he registered six wins, including a win at the state championships at 170 pounds. Foldeak feels Pokora will surprise people this season.
“He’s really improved. He’s really dedicated himself to the sport,” he said. “I’m really proud of the kid. I think he can do really well.”
The other returning starter is junior Kieran Reardon, a third-year wrestler who will wrestle at 170 pounds. Last year he notched seven wins wrestling at 195 pounds.
The only other two spots that were set, as of Tuesday, were at 113 pounds, where Wilton has returning sophomore Jake Walsh; and 106 pounds, where the Warriors have freshman James Mannix.
School cancellations and missed practices have prevented Foldeak from finalizing the lineup as of Tuesday, and six weight classes were still up for grabs — 126, 132, 138, 145, 195 and 220.
Foldeak said this year’s squad is small compared to previous years, with only 27 wrestlers. One thing there is no shortage of, he said, is a willingness to work.
“(The captains) are excited about the work ethic of the team. They’re excited that we have a great group of kids, who come in and do what they’re told to do, and work,” he said. “It’s a real pleasure coming to practice.”