WILMINGTON – When Peter Mitchell was introduced as the new Wilmington High School Wrestling coach, one of his longterm goals is to get the program back to where it was when he was a longtime assistant, with sectional and state champions, All-State and New England qualifiers all on a consistent basis.
While he is still getting reacquainted with the same program he previously spent two decades with, he knows that if what he has witnessed from his 16-member squad continues the rest of the season, certainly good things will happen come post-season time.
"I'm just really impressed with the guys and their work ethic," he said. "They came to work this season. We have a lot of seniors so we're an old team but we don't have a lot of (varsity) experience. We have been doing a weight room workout every other day and really working hard during practice on the mats.
"I'm not sure (who our top guys are) because we haven't had a match yet and I have been out of the program for a little bit, but their work ethic in the practice room has stood out to me. I had coached here for 20 years and I hadn't seen that kind of work ethic before and that's really good to see. We also have a lot of football players so it's a good transition for those kids to go from football to wrestling."
Last year's team finished at 4-6 in the abbreviated season which took place in the spring and outdoors. The two seasons before that, the 'Cats finished 10-16 and 9-15, so this year's team will be looking for its first winning record since the 2017-'18 season (12-11).
Last year there were no post-season meets and Wilmington ended up losing a handful of talented seniors, including Joe Ganley and Shane Penney, who finished with 114 and 107 career wins, respectively, as well as placing multiple times at previous sectional and state meets. Also placing in the sectionals back in the 2019-'20 season as a sophomore was Luke Vitale, who is one of the three captains along with Nick Doyle and Marcello Misuraca.
"The captains have been doing a great job as a captain and helping me get familiar with a program that I haven't been a part of in a while. They have helped me familiarize everything once again and I can't tell you how much I have appreciated that," said Mitchell.
The three captains are three of the eight seniors on the team. Mitchell was still figuring out his line-up and knows that he will need to fill some spots at the lighter weight classes and may have to bump some people around. But as of now, it appears as if Vitale and Adam LeBlanc will be at 132, Brian Duggan will be at 145, Julien Cella and Nikolaos Iascone will be at 152, Braedon Almas will be at 160, Aryan Bhateja and Mohaned Said will be at 165, Joe Kullman and Doyle at 170, Misuraca at 182, Yvenson Jeanty will be at 195, and Nojus Giniotas, Dempsey Murphy and Amilcar Valdivieso will be at either 220 or heavyweight. Adam Lopez and Kevin Kane will also be in the mix.
Wilmington opened the season this past weekend in a tri-meet held at Gloucester High. The ‘Cats had a terrific day, going 2-1 with wins over Excel Academy (40-39) and Reading (48-36), while losing to host Gloucester (48-36).
In the win over Excel Academy, winning their matches by pin included Julien Cella at 138 pounds (55 seconds), Nickolaos Iascone at 145 pounds (39 seconds), Brian Duggan at 152 pounds (32 seconds), Nick Doyle at 170 pounds (30 seconds), Jack Rooney at 182 pounds (1:47) and Marcello Misuraca at 195 pounds (1:07).
The final win came from Adam LeBlanc at 160 pounds with a 17-4 major decision.
In the win over Reading, Cella, Doyle and Misuraca were repeat winners by pin. Adam Lopez (132), Mohaned Said (160) and Dempsey Murphy (220) won by pin as well, and then Duggan and Nick Doyle won by forfeit.
In the loss to Gloucester, Lopez, Iascone, Rooney and Misuraca won by pin, while Duggan and Murphy won by forfeit.
Wilmington returned to action on Wednesday against Melrose in the Middlesex League Freedom Division opener with results not known as of presstime.
On Saturday, the 30th annual Sons of Italy tournament featuring close to 20 of the best teams in the area will take place at the Shriner's Auditorium in Wilmington, starting at 10:00 am.