It promises to be an interesting year for the Saugerties High School wrestling team as head coach Dominic Zarrella and his assistant coaches try to mold a group of freshmen and sophomores and one talented eighth-grader into a cohesive unit, and one senior goes for his 100th win.
Last year’s team won its division in the Section 9 championship. But much of that squad graduated last spring, so Zarrella is facing a rebuilding year with only a few seniors to mentor the younger wrestlers.
One is co-captain Brian Bucci, who has been a standout for the last three years. He is looking forward to reaching the 100-win plateau this year.
“100 wins is an important milestone,” said Zarella. “It would be great for him to reach it.”
“I’m 20 wins away,” Bucci said after a recent team practice, “and if I stay healthy should reach that goal.”
The other co-captains are James Ball and Steven Filak, both of whom performed well last year.
One of the new wrestlers Zarrella is looking forward to bringing along is Graham Knisell. Zarrella doesn’t often bring eighth-graders up to the varsity but he believes young Knisell will provide quality to the team’s lower weight classes.
Also looking to take the next step is Matt Bucci, Brian’s younger brother, who did well last year.
The Bucci brothers will be swapping back and forth in the middle weights, with both able to wrestle at either 152-lb or 160-lb.
Back again this year is Peter Lesser, the team’s heavyweight. He’s bigger and stronger than last year, and “meaner as well,” he says.
“We’re young but we’re tough,” Zarrella said.
This past Saturday, Nov. 28, the team received a surprise visit. Because of the Thanksgiving holiday, a couple of former Sawyer wrestlers returned to help out with the younger members: Alex Munoz, Rob Cuomo and James Bethel (one of the top college wrestlers in the nation).
“We’ve worked with a number of the older wrestlers when we went here,” Cuomo said, “and it’s good to see how they’ve progressed.”
“These are the last of our group to come back,” said Brian Bucci. “We all came up together and they’ve gone on to college but it’s great that they are coming back to share what they’ve learned.”
“We now get a chance to show them how we’ve grown as a team,” Filak added.
“It’s just an incredible high,” Ball added. “They’re teaching us so much more, the moves they’ve learned in college, and that will help us this year.”