WILMINGTON – This season is going to be a work in progress in many ways for the Wilmington High Wrestling team, at least in the early going as the Wildcats and their largely inexperienced roster looks to keep improving as the season goes on. With that in mind, the Wildcats performance at Saturday’s Sons of Italy Tournament at the Shriner’s Auditorium was just what coach Joel McKenna was looking for.
The Wildcats did not have any wrestlers place in the top four of their weight class but they had several wrestlers win at least two matches on the day, and as a team they finished 13th out of 20 teams.
“We tell them all the time, that this is probably the toughest early season tournament that there is in the entire state,” McKenna said. “For a tournament that happens in the first couple of weeks of the season, this is a deep tournament with talent from the Middlesex League, the MVC and even the Bay State League with Brookline and Dedham.
“It is an impressive group of teams with good wrestling histories, so to go toe to toe with them today and have some success, that is what we are looking for. We are looking to keep building, and that is all we can really ask of these guys right now.”
Junior Joe Ganley was one of those who stood out the most for the Wildcats going 3-2 on the day at 126 pounds. Ganley got his day off to a good start with an 1801 technical fall win over Steve Fogarty of Melrose, before losing in the quarterfinals to Ty Stewart of Dracut in the quarterfinals. Ganley then moved on to the consolation bracket where he pinned Jack Donovan of Tewksbury in 52 seconds and Youscarl Nina of Whittier in 1:40 before being eliminated by Shawsheen’s Frank Foti in the consolation semifinals.
“Joe wrestled well on the day,” McKenna said. “He went 3-2, so to do that at this tournament is pretty impressive considering the competition, so we were happy with that.”
Fellow junior Stephen Smolinsky also went 3-2 on the day at 152 pounds. Like Ganley, he won his first match of the day, pinning Tewksbury’s Richard Lavargna in a time of 3:31 in the first round. After losing in the quarterfinals to Luke Lamele of Whittier Tech, Smolinsky went on to beat Zack Bambury by pin in a time of 1:00 and earn a tough 9-7 decision over Robert Dawes of Dedham.
Smolinsky’s run also came to an end in the consolation semis when he dropped a 6-1 decision to Matt Shaw of Central Catholic.
“Stephen lost in a tight match, and that was a kid he had lost to last Saturday, but he did much better against him this time around, so that was a nice turnaround for him,” McKenna said.
Senior Jacob Bernard (120) and junior Shane Penney (132) each went 2-2 on the day, with Bernard picking up a first round win over Joey Testa of Winchester and later getting a win over Johnny Trzcienski of Dracut, while Penney won with a pin in his first round match over Edgar Feliciano in a time if 3:31, and later earned a pin in a time of 1:12 over Devin DeLuca of Shawsheen.
“Shane did a great job,” McKenna said. “And he’s been battling an illness too, so he is still really kind of trying to catch up health wise and everything, so for him to get out there and perform the way he did today, was definitely a good day for him.
“Jacob was in a very, very tough weight class. He lost to a state place finisher from Dedham. He was actually beating him, but he made a little error in the third period and that came back to haunt him.”
Senior Ryan Martin went 1-2 on the day, winning his first round match over Mike Maher of Melrose in a time of 2:44.
Overall, McKenna was very happy with his team’s performance on the day.
“We did better than we have the first two times out and that’s all we’re asking for right now,” McKenna said. “Every kid who stepped on the mat for us today showed improvement from last week into this week, so we are happy with that. And some of our younger kids got some varsity experience in a tournament like this, which will help them. It can be really, really tough, but they showed something.”
One of the wrestlers who impressed McKenna the most on the day was sophomore Marcello Misuraca, who despite going 0-2 on the day, wrestled very well at 170 pounds, losing his second match of the day by a narrow 10-7 margin.
“This was his first varsity tournament, and he went down to the wire in a couple of his matches, and that is a huge ask for a kid who is doing this for the first time,” McKenna said.
Going forward, McKenna is hoping to use the team’s experience on Saturday as a springboard to more success though the rest of the season.
“Everybody is buying in to what we are doing. The kids are listening and they are not afraid to try things if they are new wrestlers, so we are in a good spot with that right now,” McKenna said. “We are taking the long view and the kids are just going to get better.”
In addition to preparing for their matches, McKenna and the Wildcats also served as host for the Sons of Italy Tournament, making for a very busy weekend of setting up and breaking down at Shriner’s Auditorium for a group of athletes that were getting ready for a major tournament.
After the event, McKenna was very thankful to his wrestlers for all of their hard work in preparing for the tournament, and he also wanted to thank two other groups who make the tournament possible every year.
“It was a fantastic tournament. We have a lot of alumni that come to help out and the staff here at the Shriner’s Auditorium are second to none,” McKenna said. “We are able to come in from Friday through Sunday or even Monday if we need to and they are just fantastic hosts.
“And the Sons of Italy have been fantastic in making sure we have everything we need to run this, so I have to thank those two organizations for making it another great tournament.”