A look inside the wrestling room at Greenwich’s gymnasium clearly indicates the Cardinals won’t have a shortage of competitors on the mat this winter.
“We’ll have a lot of bodies and we’ll fill up weight classes,” Cardinals coach Jere Petersen said. “We are not going to forfeit any weight classes.”
More than 60 athletes are training in the wrestling room each day for Greenwich, which should see close to 30 wrestlers compete at the varsity level over the course of the season.
The Cardinals intend to use their depth to build off a 2018-2019 season in which they registered a record of 14-5.
“We have a great amount of kids wrestling, which I think, will help our program succeed,” GHS senior tri-captain Emanuel Lai said. “Hopefully, we are going to fill up every single weight class and have high-level competitors at every class.”
Lai, who is starting his second season as one of the Cards’ captains, is expecting to wrestle in the 138-pound class, while junior tri-captain Carlos DeWinter could compete at several classes (126, 120, 115). DeWinter posted a record of 35-7 last winter and placed fourth in the 113-pound division at the FCIAC Championships. He’s seeking to take his success to a higher level this season.
“I had a great tournament at FCIACs, but I didn’t do what I needed to do at the Class LL Tournament and I ended up not qualifying for the State Open,” DeWinter said. “This year, I am hoping to rectify that and hopefully, win FCIACs, LLs and qualify for the State Open.”
DeWinter and his teammates are optimistic about the upcoming season, after what they accomplished during their 2018-19 campaign.
“I feel very good about this team, I was not expecting us to have the season we did last year, because we had so many underclassmen in the lineup,” DeWinter said. “Those kids did a great job and we have those same type of kids this year and if we do things the right way, we could have a really good season again.”
Junior Vincent Ceci, also a captain, returns for his third season on the squad, where he is continuing a long-standing family tradition. Ceci, who will probably wrestle in both the 182- and 195-pound divisions, is on the team with his cousin Louis Ceci, a sophomore. Ben Ceci and Mike Ceci, Louis’ brother and Vincent’s cousins, both starred on the wrestling mat for the Cardinals, as did CJ Ceci, Vincent’s brother. Two of Vincent Ceci’s uncles also wrestled at Greenwich.
“I am excited to carry on that family tradition,” Vincent Ceci said.
Said Petersen: “It’s nice to have two Cecis on the mat.”
Greenwich opens its 2019-20 season with a home match against FCIAC rival Fairfield Warde on Dec. 18.
“We would like to do better at the FCIAC Tournament this season, as far as getting more guys on the podium,” Petersen said. “I’d like to see us get 15 wins this year. We had 14 last year, so we would love to add one more.”
And the Cardinals certainly have the depth to do so.
AT THE HELM: Petersen begins his second season as coach of the Cardinals. Greenwich finished 14-5 in his first season at the helm, defeating strong foes such as Staples, Ridgefield and Westhill along the way.
“They were a hard-working group,” Petersen said of last season’s squad. “They all came in and were ready to go from the start, they were a resilient bunch. We lost to Warde in a close one, but came back and beat the teams we were supposed to beat.”
Greenwich finished in 10th-place in the team standings at the FCIAC Championships last season and was 11th at the Class LL competition.
WHO’S GONE?: Graduation claimed captains Andrew Nanai, Mitchell Grimes and Jackson Blanchard, all of whom excelled. Nanai won the 182-pound title at the FCIAC Championships, then placed third at the Class LL Championships last season. Grimes placed fifth at the FCIAC meet in the 126-pound class, while Blanchard had a fifth-place finish at the Class LL finals at 170. Christian Stanback and Ali Ibrahim (sixth at FCIAC meet in 152-pound class) were also among the graduates.
WHO’S BACK?: Sophomore Javier Serra, who wrestled at the 106-pound division last year, returns and could wrestle at 120. DeWinter, a mainstay on the squad since his freshman year, should spark the team at several weight classes. Garrett O’Dell, a sophomore, has moved up to wrestle at 126 and junior Will Grimes brings strength and skill to the mat. Grimes won more than 20 matches last winter.
Lai is out to make his senior year his best for the Cards.
“Being a part of this team has been the most amazing experience of my life,” Lai said. “I started wrestling my freshman year and I’ve progressed every single year. Now I am trying to help the underclassmen get to that level.”
Ceci should be one of the wrestlers to watch out for, following a productive football season for Greenwich, which advanced to the Class LL Tournament quarterfinals.
“I hope he can carry that emotion and aggression to the wrestling mat and through the season,” Petersen said of Ceci. “It’s tough losing the seniors we did, but we have a good group of kids here.”
Senior Cristobal Isaacs, Glen Rivas (senior), Kacper Grabowski (junior) and junior Anthony Febles (junior) are among the numerous returning grapplers.
QUOTABLE: “Hopefully, we can place higher than we did last year at FCIACs and LLs,” Lai said. “We know we have the potential to really improve our placing from last year.”
“We have a lot of younger kids coming out, so I’m excited to see what they can do and hopefully, they can fill up the spots.”