Individually, Cooperstown wrestlers had one of their best years on the mat in 2013, but now the team is in rebuilding mode.
The good news is the program is larger than it has been in recent years with 19 grapplers on the varsity level and a full squad in modified. However the Hawkeyes have no seniors and big freshman and sophomore classes.
“We’ve got no where to go but up,” said co-coach Tom Rice.
Rice is the new coach in town, a New Hartford native in his first year at CCS. He coached modified football in the fall and is now teaming with Pete Sorbera to lead the wrestling program.
Sorbera is the veteran of CCS wrestling, an assistant the past few years under Micaiah Abts and a longtime fixture in the program.
“I think we’re on the right track,” Sorbera said. “We’ve got a lot of good kids. We’ve got a great modified program under Bud Lippitt. I just hope we can keep Tom around. I’m 64 and retired and I don’t know how long I can keep doing this. I can’t really get on the mat and show them things anymore. Tom can get out there and show them moves.”
The program had come together the past few years under Abts, who is teaching at Unatego but no longer coaching. It had its best year in a decade last year when three wrestlers won individual titles and Mikey Boyle was the fifth CCS wrestler to make the state tournament.
Boyle won the Section Three Class D tournament and the Section Three Division II tournament at 120 pounds on his way to a 1-2 record at states. His fellow co-captains, Jacob Miller and Kevin Segit also won titles. Segit won the Class D tournament at 190 pounds while Miller won the Center State Conference tournament at 145 pounds.
“It is going to be tough for us to find that kind of leadership,” Sorbera said. “We have a hole to fill there. Kevin and Mikey and Jacob, they were our leaders for a lot of years.”
Sorbera points to Jacob Russell (113), Paul LoRusso (120), Nate Miller (126) and T.J. Fay (145) as wrestlers who have made stepped up to fill the void this year. All four have been in the program for several years, and are improving steadily.
“I think some of those guys will be in line to have very good tournaments by the end of the year,” Sorbera said.
Both coaches admit, it will be a process. There are still holes in the line-up and dual meets will sometimes be un-winnable based on forfeits. The team is short on heavyweights this year; in its most recent meet, only one wrestler – Dante Poole at 195 pounds – competed in the final five weight classes.
Those weaknesses were obvious on Monday as the team hosted its first home meet of the season, losing to Herkimer 66-21.
“You know, despite the score, I was pretty happy tonight,” Sorbera said. “We had good effort. We’re going to have a lot of matches like that this year, but I think we see some kids working hard and improving. We’re going to keep getting better. We’re going to be competitive in the next couple of years.”
Against the Magicians, LoRusso, Miller and Fay got wins for Cooperstown and Jasmine Martinez (99) received a forfeit.
LoRusso, a freshman, recorded his tenth win of the season Monday pinning Marshall Borek in 55 seconds. Miller, a junior, pinned Kyler Ford at 3:59.
Fay, a junior, had one of the most exciting matches of the night, winning a 13-6 decision over James Pettucci. Fay took and 8-1 lead early in the third period, but then had to fight off a comeback by Pettucci, who got a reversal and a near pin, to make it 8-6. But Fay found a way to get off his back and ended the matches with a reversal and near pin to clinch the win.
“It was a good effort by T.J.,” Sorbera said. “In the past he wouldn’t have been able to fight through that.”
January will be a big month for the squad, with seven more dual meets, beginning with a match at Delhi tonight. Plus the team will go to the CNY Tournament this weekend at V-V-S.