WALLINGFORD — The annual Sheehan athletic college signing was held at the school on Thursday afternoon with another impressive crop of student-athletes.
The ceremony was highlighted by a trio of Division I signings: Luke Esparo to Penn State for gymnastics, Matt Moconyi to Wagner College for baseball and Leah Harrison to UConn for cheerleading.
The Division II commits were football player John Gogliettino (Franklin Pierce), baseball players Josh Mikulski (American International College) and Aiden Caraballo (Post University) and lacrosse player Grace Keenan (Roberts Wesleyan University).
The Division III-bound Titans are Shaine Salvador (Salve Regina, football), Lyndsey Bunnell (Western New England, lacrosse), Tanner Drobish (ECSU, lacrosse), Aaron Mansfield (Saint Joseph-Maine, lacrosse) and Maya Wresien (Springfield, field hockey).
“This is a great day for the kids to stick their chest out a little bit and be proud of what they have accomplished,” Sheehan Athletic Director Gary Gravina said. “This is a big day in their lives. It’s also good for the rest of the school to see kids that are moving on to play in college so they can strive for that.”
Esparo is a nationally decorated gymnast. He is a national champion on still rings and in the all-around. Now he off to Penn State.
“This means so much to me,” Esparo said. “This is just a dream.”
Esparo is fresh off competing in the 2023 Men’s Development Program Junior National Championships this past weekend in Oklahoma City. He was first on still rings with scores of 14.200 and 14.400. He finished fifth on vault (29.100) and ninth on high bar (25.450).
In 2020, Esparo was a Region Six Elite Team Cup member. He was a national still rings champion in 2018, 2019 and 2021 and an all-around championin 2019 and 2021.
He trains with New Era Gymnastics in Hamden under gym director Alex Flores.
“I’m just hoping to continue the hard work,” Esparo said. “It’s going to be easier to work hard in an environment when everyone has the same and succinct role. I chose Penn State because of the campus, the gym and the great coaches that consistently build a team.”
Esparo was first introduced to athletics through tee-ball. It proved to be a roundabout avenue to gymnastics. At age 5, he was doing cartwheels and forward rolls in the field.
“My mother asked if I wanted to try gymnastics; as a little kid I thought it was only for girls. I got put into gymnastics a week or two later and I’ve loved it ever since,” Esparo said. “My ultimate goal with the sport is to have fun and travel the world. That’s what I want to do.”
Harrison was named a Record-Journal Scholar Athlete last month as a four-year cheerleader and a two-year captain. She’s also president of the Student Council and a student representative at Wallingford Board of Education meetings.
She volunteers; she works two jobs. Through it all, Harrison has maintained a 4.3 grade-point average, which has made her an All-SCC Academic for three years running.
“It’s kind of crazy because I’ve looked up to the UConn cheerleaders my whole life,” Harrison said. “I’ve always looked at them on the sidelines and wanted to be one, and to now do it is crazy.”
Harrison applied to 14 schools and got into each one of them. No matter which one Harrison selected, she was going to try out for the cheer team.
“I haven’t had the easiest childhood, so I’m going to be a UConn cheerleader and I’m very proud of that and where I’ve gotten myself today,” Harrison said.
Sheehan cheerleading coach Ashley Ford was beaming with pride talking about Harrison.
“I’ve known Leah a year and a half now and she is amazing,” Ford said. “She is so dedicated with a high GPA and works two part time jobs and student council president and just is non-stop and still has time to be an amazing kid.
“She was so nervous to try out for the UConn team. When she told me she made the team, it was just an unbelievable feeling. It’s huge. They had quite a bit of girls trying out, and for her to be one of the ones chosen is a huge accomplishment.”
As for Moconyi, he received and verbally accepted an offer last August to continue his education and play Division I baseball at Wagner College on Staten Island.
“This is one of the biggest accomplishments of my life. This is something I’ve always been working towards and has been a dream of mine,” Moconyi said. “Wagner a really good buisness program and staff, and they have a really good thing going on this year and I would love to be a part of it.”
The slugger has had a strong season for the Titans as they prepare for the Class M state tournament.
“I’ve made huge strides,” Moconyi said. “I’ve made changes and I’ve gotten better, and in the summer I’m going to get even stronger.
In preparation for Wagner, Moconyi is going to play this summer for the Hamden Miners in the Connecticut Collegiate Baseball League.
Sheehan baseball coach Dom Lombardozzi said all three of his signees have been key contributors in each of their three years in the program.
“They have done it in their own ways,” Lombardozzi said. “Josh (Mikulski) is a right fielder and has done a great job with the bat and has a great arm. He’s a competitive-type kid and wants to win at all costs. Matt on the mound and at the plate has been one of our better players the last couple of years.
“Aiden (Caraballo) is the jack-of-all-trades. He fills in wherever we need him. He’s in left field this year. All three of those guys have done a great job and it’s nice to see them compete at the next level.”
Sheehan football coach John Ferrazzi said signing days are great moments for the athletes and their families. He was particularly excited for Gogliettino and Salvador.
“These are two examples of guys who have done it for four years,” Ferrazzi said. “They did it the right way. Both played on a high level for us and set the example for us. They are well-prepared and should go in and compete at those schools. They have the tools to do it. They should be able to go out and make plays and be positive additions to their programs.”
Sheehan boys lacrosse coach Steve Rossacci said much the same about Drobish and Mansfield, who are both captains this spring.
“They are great leaders and great role models for the younger guys on our team,” Rossacci said. “They have helped us develop this year. Aaron plays defense and is a long pole. He was selected All-SCC Division II this year. Tanner plays attack for us and scored his 100th (career) goal this year. He’s well over that now and was also selected All-SCC Division II. Both are great players and great people. Both of those college programs are gettinng two great players.”