Despite a jump from League VIII to VII, Hampton Bays wrestlers are motivated to triumphantly repeat their top-of-the-standings finish.
Last year, the Baymen went 4-2 overall and 4-0 in League VIII to finish out front of Center Moriches (3-1) on the leaderboard. Although there will be some stiff competition from teams like Mt. Sinai and Elwood-John Glenn, head coach Mike Lloyd said his grapplers aren’t deterred.
“We’ve talked to the kids about setting goals, both in the short-term and long-term, and what the goals of the team should be,” Lloyd said. “Last year was to be league champs and we’re choosing to set the same goal this season. Obviously, the kids know some of the competition we’re going to be facing will be tougher, but we’re challenging them and saying since we still have a lot of guys on the team, we think we have the skill and the group of guys that can do it.”
Now it’s about getting some of the new and younger guys on the team to hop on board with that mindset and replace the five seniors lost to graduation. Most notable was Kevin Eras, who, despite it being his first season taking on wrestling after football, saw the most success of any of the upperclassmen. The Baymen are also without Joe Gaudiello, a 170-pounder who, as a junior last season, showed a lot of promise and, with Eras, finished fourth in the county. He moved to South Carolina.
“It’s sad to see him go because he was doing well,” Lloyd said. “But we want those guys to show the others the importance of the hard work, get that information-sharing going, and impart that on the younger guys, especially those new to the team, and have them see what it ends up leading to. The effort they put in directly relates to what they get back out of it.”
Leading that charge will be returning seniors Willy Kraus, Nick Pacheco, and Nick Corredor. Pacheco and Corredor captained the team last season, and Kraus, the Suffolk County Division II champion at 126 pounds, went the deepest of the bunch by going through several rounds of the state tournament.
The path to success may be different for some of the guys this season though. Kraus is currently sitting in the 138-pound weight class, and has been competing against bigger kids in the wrestling room to practice against the strength and skill that comes at that level. Pacheco, who also was at 126 pounds last season, but competed at 120, is also currently choosing between both weight classes.
What Lloyd likes most is that his team is boasting bigger numbers and depth, especially in the upper weight classes, than in years past. His current 33-member roster is one of his largest yet, which can be attributed to both the success of the team and his recruiting from the Baymen football team to which he’s an assistant.
Replacing Eras as a football-to-wrestling addition is Ethan Culhane, a junior 182-pounder.
“He’s been picking it up very quickly,” the coach said. “He’s been a great asset to the football team.”
A returner from years past is Dakota Thompson. Competing at 152, the junior comes back to Hampton Bays having spent his sophomore year in another district. Lloyd is happy to have him.
“He had a lot of skill two years ago,” he said. “As a ninth-grader, he did a pretty good job and has only gotten bigger and better since then.”
Hampton Bays kicks off its nonleague season Wednesday, December 4, hosting Hauppauge at 4 PM. After a tournament at North Babylon December 7, the Baymen head to Mattituck/Greenport/Southold, which swapped places with Hamptons Bays by moving down to League VIII, for a December 11 meet at 4:30 PM.
Westhampton Looking To More Podium Placers
Leading Westhampton this season are former assistant coach Connor Miller and volunteer Andrew Petroulias. While they’ll be replacing 37-year coach Paul Bass, who was head coach of the Hurricanes the last 32 years, the pair doesn’t want their returners to miss a beat.
“We have a really tough group coming back,” Miller said. “We’re looking for them to have success for sure, and success breeds success. When they see that it’s possible and it’s something they can do coming out of our room, it really helps give them that belief that they can get it done too.”
He’s referring to the recent graduate Liam McIntyre, who, as the winningest wrestler in Westhampton history, finished his illustrious career second in the state.
Returning Suffolk County champion Jackson Hulse, a junior at 160 pounds, boasts the most 2018 accolades of any returner, but the coaches are also excited for 126-pound, four-time All-League grappler Jay Montagna’s senior season.
“He’s someone that’s been close to the top level of kids in the county, and I’m excited to watch him compete,” Petroulias said.
Montagna finished his junior campaign second in the county, and will be the team’s sole captain this season.
“He’s a really, really good kid,” Miller said. “He’s a hard worker. He sets the tone for the guys.”
Juniors stepping up will be All-Leaguers Will Zaffuto (120 pounds), Jack Santora (106), Grant Skala (106/99), and Joey D’Agostino (99 pounds).
“We’re looking for them to level up this year,” Miller said. “Put a couple of them on the podium at counties.”
For the first time in over 30 years, Westhampton will be kicking off the season in Sayville, instead of at East Hampton for the Sprig Gardner Tournament. Sayville hosts its tournament December 7 at 9 AM, and Westhampton kicks of the dual meet season hosting the Golden Flashes December 11 at 4:30 PM.
No matter what the season brings though, Lloyd wants to ensure his guys get more out of the experience than winning and losing. Westhampton’s coaches agree.
“We want to emphasize the relationships they build and the fun they have with each other,” Lloyd said. “Wrestling becomes more than just the sport itself — it’s the life lessons they learn, that they take with them through high school and college, when they get a job — that’s the thing, when looking back, people realize they really get out of this. Having them see those benefits sooner helps them recognize the value of going through all of this.”