Any concern that the transition from the Scott Wickham era to the Dom Zarrella era would be a bumpy one should now be laid to rest. The Saugerties High varsity wrestling team is still a dominant force.
Still to host a meet of their own – and anyone who has ever seen the team wrestle at home know what an exciting atmosphere they create – the Sawyers are overwhelming their opponents, winning at different weight classes through solid contributions from athletes of all ages. For the team’s acknowledged leader, senior Ethan Stanley, the initial effort in a sport where the success of the individual is often buoyed by team spirit, the quick start has been crucial.
“It means a lot to come out strong,” Stanley, who wrestles in the 285-pound weight class, said. “It shows the young guys on the team that we mean business and will work hard to achieve our goals.”
For Stanley, words by themselves don’t mean much. The reigning Section IX, Division I champion is doing his job on the mat this season. He went 9-0 in the Kingston Tigers Duals to open the season, helping the Sawyers finish atop the 13-team field with a 6-3 record. Stanley’s recent wins include a victory by fall in 45 seconds against Onteora’s Ryan Hickey and another by fall in 48 seconds against Tyler Vanderlinde of Roy C. Ketcham.
Stanley pointed to the Sawyers’ 42-28 win over the Tigers on Friday, December 16 as being typical of how the team performs. “I think the match against Kingston at their own school best exemplifies what the Sawyers are all about,” Stanley said. “They tried to overwhelm us. We took it one match at a time, relying on our training and our conditioning. That usually works out for us.”
In the meet, the Sawyers swept the five lightest weight classes, including a win by fall at 120 pounds in 1:36 from John Lerczak, who ousted Kingston’s John Marrero.
“Coming out strong means that the team will keep up the work throughout the season and keep winning,” Lerczak said. “The Kingston match really showed us that no matter what we will win even in the other team’s gym.”
So far that’s all Saugerties has had a chance to do. Their official home opener didn’t happen until the team hosted Minisink Valley on Wednesday, December 21. The following day, the team was scheduled to hit the road again, wrestling in a duals meet at Newburgh Free Academy, a school that – like Kingston – is much larger. For the Sawyers, it’s another challenge on the road to another successful season. As sophomore James Bethel, who wrestles in the 195-pound weight class, pointed out, Minisink Valley is no slouch. It’s currently ranked number four in New York,” Bethel said. “I’m expecting the meet to be a challenge to us as a team.”
Like many of his teammates, Bethel is wrestling well: He won by fall against Onteora’s Andrew Friedel in 1:08 last Saturday. He said he feels the strong start to the season is important, setting the tone for how the rest of the season will unfold. He hopes that the best is yet to come.
“Our team’s strong introduction into the new wrestling season shows the sweat and dedication our wrestling team and coaches put into the sport and the passion of the athletes who participate in it,” Bethel said. “The Sawyers’ early success I believe is not comparable to what coach Zarrella and our wrestling team is capable of because we practice nearly every day of the week. and every practice we become that much better.”
That could be terrifying news for the rest of the league with a heavy regular season schedule that runs for another month and a half.
Stanley credited Zarrella for his role in keeping the Sawyers’ past success as part of its present and future. “The team’s early success is definitely a testament to coach Zarrella, as well as the team’s notorious work ethic,” Stanley said.
While most athletes tend to look at each challenge as they confront it, Stanley allowed himself an early Christmas present by taking a peek at a future challenge he’s also eagerly awaiting. “I’m looking forward to the Eastern States Tournament coming up in 2012,” he said. “There will be great competition there, and it will be an awesome opportunity to compete with top-ranking wrestlers outside of New York.”
Stanley’s 9-0 performance in the Kingston Tigers Duals was nearly matched by teammate Andrew Mentz, who went 8-1 in the tournament wrestling in the 170-pound weight class.