MERIDEN — Wrestling returned Wednesday night and, if history is any indication, area mats should see ample wins this winter.
Platt, Maloney and Southington have their share of title contenders this season. All three should get their share of dual meet wins as well.
Over in Cheshire, the Rams are on the upswing. While the Rams are coming off a 1-17 campaign, their roster numbers have improved, and so should their won-loss record.
Here’s a deeper look at the four area squads.Platt
Bryan McCarty enters his 29th season as the head man for the Panthers. After last year’s 18-17 campaign, he has a career record of 471-275-3.
Platt graduated two top-flight wrestlers in Ryan Greene and Andy Flores, but bring back 126-pounder Isaiah Ross and 170-pounder Cristian Calero, the senior captains.
They also bring back senior 130 James Rondini.
Last year, as a 120-pound junior, Rondini went over the career 100-win mark and placed second in Class M and the State Open. For the year, he was 40-5.
At 106-29 for his career, Rondini is on course to become Platt’s winningest wrestler of all-time.
Ross, 37-8 last year and 58-20 for his career, was fourth last season in Class M.
Rondini and Ross will once again give Platt a potent 1-2 punch in the lineup and lead the Panthers into the postseason tournaments.
Also watch for sophomore 160 Matt Merrigan, who had a solid 27-10 freshman season. Watch for senior heavyweight Luke Fuerstenberg, who was 19-5 before a shoulder injury cut his 2018-19 season short.
“We return two place-winners from last year, and Luke and Merrigan look strong,” McCarty said. “Our goal is to be in the Top 5 at Class M’s.”
Platt has 30 wrestlers on its roster. Here’s how they line up to start the season:
Tristen Mendoza (so. 113) Isaiah Ross (126), James Rondini (130), John Cerrone (so. 138), Tristyn D’Aniello (jr. 145), Matt Merrigan (160), Cristian Calero (170), Elias McCarthy (jr. 182), Evean Oquendo (jr. 182), Noah Chamber (jr. 195), Ommy Velez (so. 220), Luke Fuerstenberg (heavyweight) and Christopher Bartlett (so. heavyweight).
Currently, the Panthers don’t have a wrestler at 106.Maloney
The Spartans were 5-18 in coach Joe Winoski’s first year. They lost one Class L place-winner in Nikolas DeBaise (2nd, 182) and return another in senior Kody Talento (6th, 152).
Graduating along with DeBaise were two other consistent wrestlers, Gustavo Martinez and Jayden Robles.
Talento is the senior captain this year and will compete at 152 and/or 160 pounds.
Winoski said the Spartans should be able to fill each of the weight classes in most matches this season, though he isn’t sure who will wrestle at 170 just yet. He added that senior 120/126 Alfred Aviles will slot into the lineup when needed as well.
Maloney’s top newcomers are sophomores Gary Sumlin, Kuron Wiggins, Richard Alonso and freshmen Daniel Cruz, Gabriel Vazquez, Moises Hernandez and Chris McCarthy.
“I think we should be very much improved from last year,” Winoski said. “We went through some growing pains with me being a new coach. The kids know my expectations. We should do a lot better.
“I can already see the improvement in practice every single day,” Winoski added. “I have a good group of leaders in my junior and sophomore classes as they help Kody enter his senior season.”
Maloney didn’t win a conference dual match last season and that’s a trend that Winoski would like to stop. From there, the quest is for postseason success.
“We want to put more guys on the podium in Class L and we want to put guys on the podium at the Open,” Winoski said.
The Spartans have 26 wrestlers on their roster. As in past years, several girls are in the mix. Here’s how Maloney lines up:
Mackenzie Rettman (sr. 106), Juliana Murcia (sr. 113), Onil Carrion (so. 120), Gehad Saleh (jr. 126), Austin Studley (so. 132/138), Davyn Marshall (so. 132/138), Caleb Ferguson (so. 138/145), Robert Plumberg (jr. 145/152), Eric Pulaski (jr. 145/152), Kody Talento (152/160), Nicholas Gural (so. 182), Elijah Stevenson (sr. 195), Darel Rivera (jr. 220) and Brandon Kwarteng (jr. heavyweight).Southington
The Blue Knights featured two Class LL state champions last year in 145-pounder Jacob Cardozo and 170-pounder Billy Carr.
Cardozo has graduated and moved on to wrestle at Roger Williams.
Also departing was two-time New England champion Paul Calo, whose brilliant career in Southington was cut short in his senior year by a shoulder injury.
Carr, coming off an All-State football season, returns for his senior year and will likely compete at 182. He is a captain along with fellow seniors Caleb Brick (145/152), Joshua Vitti (160) and Jacob Vecchio (220).
Derek Dion, in his 28th year in the Southington program and 21st as head coach, was still finalizing his lineup heading into Wednesday’s season opener.
The captains are locks. Here are some of the options Dion was weighing:
Colton Thorpe (fr. 106/113), Jared Mangiafico (fr. 106/113), Anthony Del Debbio (so. 113/120), Jacob Lowell (so. 126), Darius Mangiafico (jr. 132/138), Emmett Vitti (jr. 138/145), Ashley Reed (jr. 138/145), Jared Guida (so. 138/145), Dawsen Welch (jr. 145/152) and Angelo Plantamuro (sr. 160/172).
Junior Luke DeAngelis and sophomore Jackson Rusiecki are vying for the 195 slot, junior Chris Santoro and sophomore Josh Schnieder for heavyweight.
Southington is a perennial Class LL contender, though numbers are down this year to 27 athletes. Along with Cardozo and Calo, graduation losses included Jason Brault, Caleb Chesanow, Derek Guida, Matthew Jacobson, Colby Johnson, Sam McCarty and Kevin Perez.
The team was 11-2 in dual meets last season and placed third in Class LL.
“Our goals are always the same,” Dion said. “We want to prepare for LL’s and give these guys a shot at their individual goals. All four captains have a good shot at making a run at states. They are all hard workers.
“We have other guys who can compete on a high level,” Dion continued. “Every kid we have returning has a chance to place at states and we have a couple of exciting freshmen.” Cheshire
The Rams won their first match in three years during last season’s 1-17 campaign. They pretty much can only go up, and that’s exactly what the Rams expect to do.
Key losses were captains Patrick O’Donnell and Troy Larusso as well as Elijah Mulligan.
The Rams have no seniors on the roster this season. They have captains in juniors Andrew Vernon (152/160) and Eli Moskowitz (132/138) and three other returning juniors in Jack Villano (170), Zach Coleman (145/152) and Christopher Scoffone (152/160).
Freshman Rome Smith is expected to make an immediate impact at 120 or 126.
“Expectations are higher than last year,” second year coach Drew Pichnarcik said.
“We are filling out a full lineup this year. We won’t be giving up matches with six or seven forfeits this year. Most of my lineup from last year returned and they have put in a lot of work in the offseason. We have a young team with strong leadership.”