Each match is a learning experience for wrestlers, as they develop methods to perfect holds, set up opponents and gain confidence
That’s especially true this season for Greenwich, which has an interesting dynamic to its squad.
Depth isn’t a problem for the Cardinals, whose roster includes 40 athletes. Yet out of the 40 only two are seniors, making this the youngest squad GHS coach Greg Domestico has guided during his three-year tenure or any place he’s coached.
“A good amount of wrestlers signed up to compete on our team this year, but a lot of them are first-year wrestlers,” Domestico said. “A lot of guys out there weren’t in the lineup last year, so they are trying to find their way,= as far as gaining experience and confidence. They lack experience and they’ve made some rookie mistakes — our inexperience has been on display in some of our early-season matches — but they are learning.”
The Cardinals sport a 1-4 record, but Domestico likes what he’s seen from his squad, which suffered narrow losses to Staples, Fairfield Warde and Shelton. The Cardinals have also seen several wrestlers make their mark at the Danbury Tournament and the Tony Carlucci Tournament in Port Chester, N.Y.
“The Staples and Shelton matches were matches that could have gone either way, we were one match away from winning both of those matches,” Domestico said. “Warde had more experienced wrestlers than us, but we still had some good matches along the way.”
Greenwich’s roster includes 11 juniors, 14 sophomores and 13 freshman.
“We have some really good, young athletes in our wrestling room,” Domestico said. “We’ve scheduled a lot tougher competitions early in the season, so they will progress and improve quickly. We threw them to the fire at the Danbury Tournament and the Port Chester Tournament and they responded and from what I have seen in practice each day – they have gotten better.”
It will indeed, be difficult for the Cardinals to win as many regular-season matches as it pulled out in previous seasons. Yet Domestico expects his young, evolving squad to be tournament tough come postseason time.
Junior Andrew Nanai is one of the Cardinals’ grapplers that can make a run toward winning a title in his weight class. Nanai, who competes in the 182-pound division, sports a record of 13-2.
“His two losses have come against very elite wrestlers, one of whom is a defending state champion,” Domestico said of Nanai. “We believe he is right in that category with the top competitors. He is wrestling at the same weight class as last year, but physically, he’s on the same level as everyone this year.
He is a very patient wrestler, who doesn’t get out of position and he’s very fundamentally sound. He doesn’t rush things or go to that big move.”
Jackson Blanchard, a junior, should also be one of the competitors to watch during tournament time. The 170-pounder has won all but two of his matches thus far.
“He has already beaten some really good wrestlers — he is a great athlete,” Domestico said of Blanchard. “The biggest thing with him is that he has matured physically. He is more muscular and stronger than he was last season and it’s shown in his matches.”
Junior Mitchell Grimes has been a mainstay in the Cardinals’ starting lineup since his freshman season and will likely contend for one of the top spots in the FCIAC and state tournaments in his 126-pound weight class.
“Mitchell has gone up two weight classes from last season and has really responded well,” Domestico said. “We have been able to move him between the 126 and 132-pound weight classes, which has enabled us to get a great matchup depending on who we wrestle. He has also gained a lot of muscle and strength this year.”
Finbar Doyle and Aly Ibrahim are the only two seniors on Greenwich’s roster. One of the standout players on Greenwich’s football team, Doyle has competed in the 152- and 160-pound classes. Ibrahim, meanwhile, gives the Cards a solid wrestler at 145. Carlos DeWinter, who experienced success wrestling at the youth level, is one of the first-year competitors that’s aided the squad. He’s won 10 of his 13 113-pound matches.
“We are pushing more toward the postseason individual titles and individual successes,” Domestico said. “We have some kids who can score points in tournaments, so we feel we can have a nice tournament team. We definitely have some kids who can make some noise in the postseason tournaments. As far as dual meets, we will come around. There are a lot of kids on our team who are getting better and better and our more experienced wrestlers are working with them to help them improve and get them ready for the challenges ahead of them.”
Domestico believes a youth program in town, which may begin in the spring would greatly benefit the program.
“A youth program gets kids exposed to wrestling at a younger age, so when they arrive as high school students they already have some experience,” Domestico said. “It would be great to have that type of program.”