Preview: New faces, new attitude for high school wrestling this winter
High school wrestling in the region stands in a state of flux with three new head coaches among the nine teams and programs looking to reload off a banner bunch of graduated seniors, top to bottom.
Chad Zibolis takes over the program at Nashua North High School where finding a way to build numbers is priority one.
Zibolis is a self-made wrestling guy, who didn’t wrestle at Nashua High School (Class of 1998).
“I learned as an assistant for Keith Richard (2004-08) at Nashua North,” said Zibolis, a teacher at Elm Street Middle School.
Zibolis was enthused in the early going about having upwards of 30 wrestlers in the room, but with only three returners from the varsity starting lineup, times could be lean early.
“The roster has only one senior. We’re young an inexperienced, but I coach football at North, and I was able to pull a lot of those kids into wrestling,” said Zibolis.
“We have hard-nosed, tough kids. Hopefully we can rebuild in the next couple years. If we can retain these kids, keep them going, get them into the Gate City program in the offseason, we could be decent very quickly.”
Junior Andrew Tate is the top Titan back in the fold, coming off a 25-12 mark with a seventh place in the state meet. Julianna Russo, at 126, and Jaysse Hernandez Sanchez, at 285, are the other experienced North mat athletes as Zibolis attempts to put his stamp on the program.
In addition, wrestling is bouncing back in the middle school ranks, where numbers and interest are way up.
“We need to find those middle school kids, make them aware of wrestling,” said
“Me being visible there helps. We have to build down there and work our way up.”
Former University of Pittsburgh wrestler and two-time New England Placer Mike Gregory is the new man in charge at Alvirne High School.
The government teacher, who hails from Dracut, Mass., owns an impressive resume, which includes a two-year stint as an assistant at Harvard University, but he’s got his hands full with only 20 athletes opening the year.
“The numbers are a little down. With the new coach, some kids are trying to feel it out a little bit,” said Gregory.
“We’ll look to build the numbers back. The first goal of this year is to rebuild the new culture in a way that suits what I want the program to be about.”
Gregory has a pretty good cornerstone to build around in sophomore Kyle Gora, who owns a nationally-ranked reputation with the mat game to match.
Gora, who will either wrestle at 160 or 170, went through a pair of wars with Salem’s Tristen Cabinta in both the Division I and the Meet of Champions state finals last year.
Those two training partners would again appear to be poised for a February collision course.
Gregory sees Gora’s tenacity and attitude rubbing off with the rest of the Broncos.
“These are hard-working kids, who still have a lot to learn,” said Gregory. “We have a good group to start out with. I just think it’s going to get better. We’re trying to figure out a way to have them come together as a team, how to do some damage.”
Welcome to Division I coach Gregory. Your team heads to powerhouse Timberlane Regional, winners of 159 straight dual meets in-state, in Wednesday night’s season opener.
Finally, at Campbell, Jim Marron is now the boss.
“We do not have a full lineup this season but we will prepared to meet the challenges ahead of us,” said Marron, who has seen a handful of matmen transition to other sports this fall.
What the Cougars do have is the returning O’Mara brothers, who are senior captains. Tyler is a state champ who will wrestle at 138, while Trevor, a state runner-up, will be at 145.
Elsewhere, Nashua South expects to improve off a solid year, despite losing five seniors.
Four state placers return, including seniors Nathaneal Tejeda and Tom Cullerton.
“One of our biggest strengths is the athleticism in the wrestling room,” said coach Adam Langlois. “The wrestlers are all very excited to learn, improve and be a very tough team.”
Bishop Guertin went a sparkling 18-2 in the dual-meet season last year but could not be happy with the third place in the Division II State Meet.
A pair of state champs, Dan Franco and Jesse Brochu, return to the lineup, while Zach Rioux, a runner-up at states, should be pretty hungry on the mat.
“We are not very deep in most of our weight classes,” said BG coach Paul Rousseau. “If we can stay healthy and keep our weights under control we should be very competitive.”
Junior Eric Griffin, a Division II state champ in 2018, heads up a deep Merrimack squad, which again should loom large in the Division II race.
“Right now a real strength of ours is the sheer number of wrestlers we have,” said coach Tim McMahon. “We have 16 freshmen, only half of whom have ever wrestled. The room is feeling crowded which is the best problem to have.
“We expect to be at the top of the division and once again be competitive at the state meet.”
Andy Almonte, Adam Presa and Griffin Ostrum all return off of state-meet placings, while dangerous sophomore Anson Dewar opened some eyes with a fourth-place effort at the Meet of Champions.
Hollis Brookline is a senior-laden bunch with Scott Anneser, Tyler St. Pierre and Zack Brickner all owning talent and experience.
“We have depth up and down the lineup, with several returning starters and a large freshmen class,” said coach Brian Bumpus.
“We will be looking for some underclassmen to step into voids left by last year’s graduating seniors and help to fill out the lineup. If those individuals can rise to the occasion, we look to be competitive in the division and qualify as many athletes for the Meet of Champions as possible.”
Milford High wrestling coaches Dana Bourassa and Joe Faucher are hoping the groudswell of excitement in Ricky DeBernardo’s run to the state title can carry over into 2018-19.
“We are very young and inexperienced,” said Bourassa. “Filling 14 weights is a tall order as school populations continue to decline. “
“We have a very hard working team that wants to do well and genuinely enjoys our sport,” said Bourassa.
“Division II may not have the best teams in NH. However, it is clearly the most competitive division. Teams like BG, Hollis, Merrimack and Goffstown will all be very tough.
“We will take each bout one at a time and try to improve as the season progresses.”
Openers Wednesday night, tournaments Saturday
The wrestling season hits the mat running with all nine local teams seeing dual meet action on Wednesday night.
Saturday’s highlight is the Milford-Souhegan Invitational, which will be hosted in Amherst by the Sabers this time around,
Along with the two host teams, North, Hollis Brookline and Merrimack High School will be seeing competition at Souhegan, beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday.
Bishop Guertin will head to the ConVal Tournament, while Nashua South goes to the extremely competitive Salem Invitational.
Here’s a look at all the area teams, except Souhegan High School, which could not be reached for information despite myriad attempts.
COACH: Mike Gregory
RETURNING STARTERS: Gora, Soph., 160/170; Cam Barrett, Jr., 145/152; Ayden Spencer, Jr., 130; Bailey Lussier, Sr., 182; Jackson McGovern, Jr., 113
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Kyle Clark, Jr., 126; Alex Linke, Soph., 195/220; Cam Pedi, Soph., 106; Chris Penny, Soph., 160/170; Nick Maniatakos, Jr., 160/170
COACH: Chad Zibolis
RETURNING STARTERS: Andrew Tate, Jr., 138; Julianna Russo, Jr., 126; Jaysse Hernandez Sanchez, Soph., 285
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Maxwell Ackerman, Soph., 220; Dylan McIntyre, Frosh., 195; Mickey Mathson, Soph., 113; Dominick Gentry, Jr., 170; Mitch Martin, Soph., 138; Zachary Maszczak, Soph., 182; Garrett Hillard, Sr., 285; Spencer Whiting, Soph., 182
COACHES: Adam Langlois, Matt Ditolla
RETURNING STARTERS: Colby Spencer, Soph., 113; Kyle Salemi, Jr., 120; Aiden Walsh, Soph., 126; Tom Cullerton, Sr., 152; Connor Goodwin, Jr., 160; Robert Issac, Soph., 182; Nathaneal Tejeda, Sr., 195; Nate Zalzal, Jr., 220; Kyle O’Connor, Jr., 285
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Numerous. “We have 11 new wrestlers, some with experience and some with no experience. All will play a big factor in filling spots that were lost from five seniors last year.”
COACH: Paul Rousseau
Connor MacDonald, Soph., 113; Joshua D’Addario, Soph., 120; Calvin Jozokos, Soph., 120; Jesse Brochu, Soph., 126; Randall Brown, Soph., 126; Ben Stawasz, Soph., 126; Steve Bouchard, Jr., 132; Zachary Rioux, Soph., 138; Matt Frechette, Jr., 145; Dan Franco, Sr., 160; Andrew Ha, Jr., 182; Anthony Dowd, Sr., 195; Aiden Szewczyk, Soph., 220; Nick Connerty, Jr., 285; Matt Burns, Jr., 285
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Joshua Ozaroff, Frosh., 126; Josef Homola, Jr., 145; James Murphy, Frosh., 152; Matt Ha, Frosh., 160; Brian Kukulski, Soph., 170; Richard Ronzio, Frosh., 195
COACHES: Bryan Dine, Tim McMahon
RETURNING STARTERS: Joe Leblanc, Soph., 126; Anson Dewar, Soph., 145; Andy Almonte, Sr., 138; Adam Presa, Jr., 160; Griffin Ostrum, Jr., 182; Eric Griffin, Jr., 220; Ian Griffin, Sr., 195
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Jacob Newman, Sr., 170
COACH: Brian Bumpus
RETURNING ATHLETES: Seth Ponders, Soph., 106; Jack Duval, Soph., 126; Dan Delong, Sr., 132; Ted Moscatelli, Soph., 145; Hunter Hudzik, Soph., 152/160; Robbie Dwyer, Sr., 152/160; Scott Anneser, Sr., 160; Tyler St. Pierre, Sr,. 170; Zack Brickner, Sr., 182; Owen MacMillan, Sr., 195/220; Sam Koch, Sr., 195/220; Andrew Wink, Sr., 220
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Several
COACHES: Joe Faucher and Dana Bourassa
TOP RETURNERS: Dimitri Lynch, Sr., 132; Trevor Grenier, Sr., 152; Dominic Goulette, Sr., 220; Ethan Briggs, Sr., 160
COACH: Jim Marron
RETURNING STARTERS: Justin Gandia, Soph., 106; Tyler O’Mara, Sr., 138; Trevor O’Mara, Sr., 145; Robert Ladd, Sr., 160; Brett McInerney, Jr., 170
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: David Donnelly, Sr., 152; Matt Graveline, Sr., 195