NEW HAVEN >> A 2-9 record doesn’t reflect the improvement the New Haven wrestling program has made this year. While a lack of depth prevents it from posting better team scores, several New Haven wrestlers are enjoying outstanding individual seasons.
At the Shelton Invitational on Dec. 21, senior Kenny Agosto (145 pounds), senior heavyweight Bruce Stiles and his brother, Gabe, a sophomore at 220 pounds, all won their weight classes. And despite the team going 1-4 (it beat Holy Cross), Agosto was named the tournament’s most outstanding wrestler.
“Since I’ve coached, that was the most successful tournament we’ve had,” said New Haven’s third-year coach Nathan Stadig. “It boosted the morale of the whole team. The team saw those guys working hard in practice, so now the rest of the team wants to work hard in practice.”
The program, which draws from Hillhouse, Hyde, Wilbur Cross and several city magnet schools which do not offer athletics, has steadily improved since forming in 2005. The program now has 22 wrestlers and is more competitive than it has ever been.
“I’ve already seen (improvements) this year,” Stadig said. “We’ve had a lot closer matches.”
The Shelton tournament set the tone for the season.
“It gave us a lot more confidence,” Agosto said. “It showed we are making a little more progress, and that we can do a little more, and accomplish a lot more. It made a couple of kids start to work harder, and it started showing that if they believe in themselves, we can start achieving more.”
Bruce Stiles is 8-0 despite being hampered by injury, while Gabe Stiles has complied a 12-2 record. Stadig believes Agosto and the Stiles boys are legitimate contenders for the upcoming Southern Connecticut Conference championship meet on Feb. 15. Stadig hopes they can also fare well at the Class LL championship a week later.
Agosto, a captain, is 14-1 this season. Stadig has been impressed with Agosto’s development, especially his leadership skills.
“The last two years, actually, I’ve really seen him improve,” Stadig said. “This is his third year wrestling and he works harder in practice than ever before. He’s a leader. He’s a captain this year, so he took on a leadership role. He helps out the other kids who are less experienced, which takes some stress off of me and (assistant) coach (Toby) Alvarez in teaching the other kids.”
Agosto admitted he has a better understanding of the technical aspects of the sport and has learned how to manage matches more effectively.
“I think I improved a lot,” Agosto said. “I’ve improved on my top position because I started to learn more pins, and I started to stop stalling in matches. Now, I have a lot more energy and I am in control of matches.”
Wrestling became more than just an activity to pass the time during the winter after the fall football season ended. Although Agosto played football for four years, he will likely wrestle in college. Agosto said he is interested in attending Springfield College.
“(Wrestling) has definitely become my No. 1 sport,” Agosto said. “It’s turned into one of the main things I am passionate about. It makes me want to work harder in more areas of my life, and it’s become more beneficial than any other sport I’ve played.”