Greenwich High wrestling team primed for deep postseason run

Greenwich High senior captain Alex Margetoes competes against his opponent during last year’s CIAC class LL championships at Trumbull High. — Paul Silverfarb photo

Greenwich High senior captain Alex Margetoes competes against his opponent during last year’s CIAC class LL championships at Trumbull High. — Paul Silverfarb photo

Another wrestling season and another round of high expectations for head coach George Albano and the Greenwich High School grapplers.

“This team has a lot of potential, but it’s still early in the season and that is odd because we are four weeks into the season,” Albano said. “We are not where we want to be yet. Every thing we do during practice and during matches is a build up towards those end of the season tournaments. We hope to place some kids and do well. We have had a couple of tough losses, but we are learning from them and building up to what is hopefully going to be a successful end of the season.”

Last season, Big Red didn’t have that stellar looking record in the regular season, finishing 13-7. However that doesn’t mean the Cardinals had a down season.

Despite not being able to compete at FCIACs, due to the massive snowstorm that hit the Northeast last year, Greenwich hit the mat at the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference class LL meet and finished 20th overall with 53 points.

When the season ended, Big Red lost several athletes to graduation, including Mark Chien, Mike Gestal and Grant Cucchissi, all grapplers who placed at the class LL championship meet.

This season, Big Red will be led by senior co-captains Jack Benenson and Alex Margetoes, two athletes that also saw competition at last year’s state championship meet.

Margetoes, Greenwich’s 113-pounder, is a three-year starter on the varsity team. He finished last season with 20 regular season victories and had a 20-14 mark. During the CIAC class LL finals, Margetoes competed in the 113-pound weight class and had a thrilling finish in his match against Norwich Free Academy’s Cody Poirier, scoring two-points in the final second and winning 9-8.

Benenson is the team’s starting grappler in the 120-pound weight class. As a sophomore he was a varsity wrestler, but a shoulder injury last year crippled his junior season.

Despite that, Benenson finished the season strong. He started the CIAC class LL tournament as the No. 12 seed in the 120-pound weight class and opened with a pin of South Windsor’s Austin Mongeon at the 5:28 mark. Although he lost in his next match to No. 5 seed Zachary Bylykbashi of Danbury, Benenson came back in wrestlebacks and beat McMahon’s Robbie Perschino with a pinfall at the 1:34 mark and took care of No. 6 seed Jared Lynch of Glastonbury with a pin at the 4:31 mark.

“Alex has been a great leader, both on and off the mat,” Albano said. “He is showing what it takes to be successful and the kids are responding to him. Jack had a tremendous off-season, has gone to some camps and has been conditioning and working out. Both are solid leaders and know that every thing they do and every decision they make for this team is for years beyond them. It’s fun watching them grow up over the past four years. I remember when they were little freshmen going to JV tournaments and now they are leading the team. It’s great to see.”

One of the challenges for the captains will be teaching the plethora of younger grapplers on the team.

“They have a tough task ahead of them because we have four seniors that will see varsity time, but the rest of the team are promising sophomores, juniors and freshmen,” Albano said. “They aren’t just leading for this year, but for the next few years as well. They are doing a great job and have been around the program for four years. They had no experience wrestling other than in high school and it’s great for the younger kids to see them and know that the captains were in the same shoes as them four years ago.”

Greenwich High has talent all over its roster. At the 106-pound weight class will be Brendon Aguda, who wrestled for the first time last season and has improved a lot in the offseason. Albano believes that having a junior at lightweight is an advantage because of his maturity and talent in the weight class.

Freshman Mike Ceci, the younger brother of standout wrestler Ben Ceci, will be at the 125-pound weight class and will be looked upon to net some big points for GHS this season.

“He’s been wrestling since probably elementary school, so he’s coming in with a lot of experience,” Albano said. “As a coach, it’s nice to have a kid like that come in and find a place right away in the varsity lineup. He’s won some tough matches and lost a few, but the experience he’s getting as a freshman is outstanding for us down the road.”

Competing at the 132-pound weight class will be another familiar name, as sophomore Alex Jarombek, who finished his freshman season with 33 wins on the season but last year a season-ending injury ended his sophomore campaign, will look to dominate as a junior. Jarombek is the younger brother

“He’s a quiet kid, but one of the most talented wrestlers that we have,” Albano said. “He works hard day in and day out. He cares so much for the sport and cares about the team. Wrestling is such a great sport because usually when you put in the hard work, you get a lot out of it. The fact that he’s devoted the last three years to the sport is starting to pay dividends now.”

Sophomore Ethan Ross will be competing in the 138-pound weight class, while fellow sophomore Bryce Stanback will be at 145.

“They are both one of the most promising sophomores that we have,” Albano said.

Ben Jones, a senior who has been on the varsity team for three seasons, will see time anywhere between the 126- and 138-pound weight classes.

Taking up the 152-pound weight class will be Jack Freiheit. Last season, Freiheit was forced into the lineup as a freshman. Although he took his lumps, winning four matches, Albano said that he’s become a better grappler.

“He didn’t get frustrated,” Albano said. “He could have easily walked away from the sport because of he was losing all those varsity matches, something clicked at the end of the season. He was working with coaches after practices and started to figure things out. He’s one of the stronger wrestlers in the lineup now.”

Dan Gutman has been with the GHS program for three years and will wrestle during his senior season at the 160-pound weight class.

Junior Justin Montier will be at 170 and fellow junior Thomas Williams will take up the 182-pound weight class spot on the roster. Both had below .500 seasons last year, but this year have shown promise. Williams and Montier both finished third at this year’s Shelton Invitational.

“Both Justin and Thomas just go at it during practice and it’s nice because a lot of teams don’t have a whole lot of techniques at the upper weights,” Albano said. “That’s a huge advantage for us because they both are technically sound and help each other get better every day.”

Sophomore Erik Menchaca will be at the 220-pound weight class and in his last match against Ridgefield pinned his opponent 38 seconds into the match. Familiar at the heavyweight position will be Chris Fischer.

Last season, Fischer started out slow, but won 12 of his last 16 matches and finished the regular season with a record of 13-8.

“We have a good six weeks before FCIACs and states,” Albano said. “Right now we are losing matches where we could win and I think those will better prepare us for the end of the year. We lost a few matches early this year 13-9 or 5-2 and 5-4. Those are the matches that are close enough that hopefully we are in good enough shape and good enough of a mental state where we should win those at the end of the year.”

Big Red’s strength this season is in its depth. In past years, Albano had to force some younger kids into the varsity lineup, much sooner than Albano would have liked, just to avoid a forfeit.

“Usually you have a year or two of JV to have some success and prepare for the varsity roster,” Albano said. “This year is unique because we have a competitive wrestler at every weight class. That’s the first time in my four years that we have had that. We have a realistic chance to win at every weight class and we have 14 kids where they could win at any time. This sets us up to be a successful team when it comes to dual meets.”

With the start of the year comes a slew of matches for Big Red. Due to the holiday break and Thanksgiving starting as late as it did, Greenwich didn’t have a lot of matches in 2013. In fact, they competed in one invitational and only two dual meets.

However, starting with tomorrow’s Shoreline Invitational at New Rochelle High School, there won’t  be much rest for Big Red the rest of the way and that is fine with Albano.

“It will be good for the kids to get into a little more of a routine,” Albano said. “I am looking forward to the two days of practice, a match, two days of practice and then a tournament. They get used to that grind of the season. It’s been difficult so far, with break and with the snow, but I think we are handling it well.”

Despite the young roster, Albano still has the same high hopes for the Cardinals. He said that he expects Greenwich High to once again place top three at FCIACs and take a top 10 finish at the CIAC class LL meet.

“We already wrestled Warde and know how tough they are and Danbury always seems to be the best team in the state,” Albano said. “Obviously overcoming either one of those two will be a challenge, but I think we can compete really well with the rest of the FCIAC. There are a lot of good teams in the FCIAC and we are in the mix. Any time you’re in the same conversation with as Trumbull, Warde or Danbury, I think we are doing something right. If you’re top 10 at States, then hopefully you’re placing a few guys at Opens. We want to get as many guys as possible in Opens.”

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