NORTH READING – Like any coach or team, Wilmington High coach Joel McKenna and the Wilmington High Wrestling team would like to win every match every time they take to the mat.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats that is not the reality as of right now, as the young squad is at the early stages of a season where they hope to steadily improve as the year goes on.
Which is why following the Wildcats 0-3 start to the season this past Saturday in a quad meet at North Reading High School against North Reading/Lynnfield, Hopkinton and Whittier Tech, McKenna was anything but discouraged at his team’s effort. In fact, it was quite the opposite.
“Mostly it came down to a lack of experience on the part of our kids in certain spots. And also, we were missing three different weight classes, so that played a role in it,” McKenna said. “Overall we were happy with how we did. There wasn’t one kid who wrestled who didn’t give us a super effort.
“At this point in the season that is half the battle. That is what we are looking for from these guys.”
The Wildcats fell to Hopkinton by a score of 45-30, North Reading/Lynnfield by a score of 48-27 and Whittier by a score of 52-24. With the exception of the Whittier match, missing three weight classes certainly hindered he Wildcats chances to win their matches, or at least make them more competitive.
The Wildcats have a deeper roster than they have had in several years in terms of numbers, but unfortunately many of the wrestlers who have joined the team this season are in similar weight classes.
“We are blessed to have so many kids on the team, but a lot of them are in the lower weight classes, so we are not as spread out as we may have been in years past,” McKenna said. “Right now we are filling 11 of 14 spots, but even with that seven out of the eleven kids are kids in either their first or second year of wrestling, so it is going to take some time.”
A few of those new wrestlers made their presence felt, including senior Dean Nally at heavyweight as well as sophomore Luke Vitale and freshman Gabe DaSilva, all of whom picked up their first ever varsity wins. It was one of those moments that is always thrilling for a coach, and McKenna is hoping to see even mor great moments like it as the season progresses.
“It was awesome to see,” McKenna said. “Luke and Dean both had to miss last season due to injury and Gabe wrestled for the first time as a freshman and did really well. I told these guys that it is going to take some time. They need to keep working and take the positives out of every meet and just keep building and getting better. It is about getting them built up over the course of the season so they can continue to be competitive.”
The Wildcats also got great efforts from some of their usual stalwarts such as senior Jacob Bernard was 3-0 at 120 pounds, as was junior Joe Ganley at 126 and 132 pounds, while Penney was 2-1 at 132 and 138 pounds. Bernard won all three of his matches by pin, while both of Penney’s victories came the same way, and Ganley won by forfeit, pin and major decision.
The Wildcats will be back in action on Wednesday night when they take on Melrose High and head coach Larry Tremblay. Trembly may be new to Melrose having just taken over last season, but he is anything but new to Massachusetts High School Wrestling as he is the winningest high school coach in state history over a 40-year career a Winchester High where he compiled 729 wins.
“We are looking forward to getting our league schedule off and running and what a great way to start it off against the coach who holds the all-time wins record in Massachusetts,” McKenna said. “They are a talented team with a great coach, but we will do our best to compete with them.”
On Saturday the Wildcats will take a break from their dual meet schedule when they host the Wilmington Sons of Italy at the Shriners Auditorium, which will feature 21 teams from all over the state of Massachusetts.
Last season the Wildcats finished 17th overall with 24 total points, with Penney, Ganley and Stephen Smolinsky all winning at least two matches.