For a small NJSIAA Group 2 school to field a competitive wrestling program in today’s COVID-19 world it is essential for the team to remain healthy and it gets a full participation from all interested wrestlers.
The Patriots of Secaucus High School are having a tough time with numbers right now. There’s no sugar coating the facts of that. Head coach Ed Roesing has just 11 wrestlers in the wrestling room this season.
Before the season started, the team lost Carlos Triana, when the senior decided not to return to the team. Triana won 32 matches last season and finished fourth in an extremely difficult District 9 tournament.
The Patriots were also without senior Brian Lopez, who suffered an injury during the football season.
Also, with the school district going almost virtual classes, it made Roesing’s job of trying to recruit kids to come out for the team impossible. Usually, Roesing would be able to convince one or two athletes to join the wrestling team. Not the case during a pandemic.
“We would get newer guys who were tough and athletic to come out,” Roesing said. “We weren’t able to do that this year.”
The Patriots’ roster is comprised of mostly juniors. It’s an eager bunch that hit the practice mats hard and ready for action.
“We get to practice and go for 90 minutes,” Roesing said. “We’re really limited with what we can do. We get in as much as we can. But it’s a major challenge.”
Roesing said that the Patriots were ready to go when practices were able to begin March 1. The Patriots practiced exactly two days – and were then shut down to a COVID-19 positive test. When it rains, it pours. And right now, it’s a monsoon in the Patriots’ wrestling room.
“We’re trying to keep things safe,” Roesing said. “We try to space the kids as much as possible. We’re cleaning the mats all the time. It’s definitely a challenge.”
Roesing likes the attitude of his team.
“They come to every practice and they always work hard,” Roesing said. “I know they’re excited to be wrestling again. We might have only 11 kids, but they want to learn more. So we’re doing what we can and get in what we can. We are making every practice count.”
The Patriots do not have a 106-pounder, but will look for promising things from 113-pound freshman Aidan Moreno, who wrestled for Secaucus Recreation last year.
“He’s a tough, scrappy kid,” Roesing said of Moreno.
The Patriots also sacrifice the six points by not having a wrestler in the 120-pound class, but welcome back junior Joe Leon at 126 pounds. Leon won 23 matches last year.
“He’s absolutely one of our leaders,” Roesing said of Leon.
Gene Costantino is the Patriots’ mainstay at 132 pounds. Costantino posted a 26-5 record last year.
“He’s one of our leaders as well,” Roesing said of Costantino, who won gold at the NJSIAA District 4 tourney last year. “We hope to squeeze him in to the regions this year.”
Junior Tyler Giraldo is the Patriots’ 138-pounder. Giraldo won 14 matches last year.
“He’s been one of our more successful wrestlers the last two years,” Roesing said. “We’re hoping that he has a breakout season this year.”
Junior David Smentkowski is the Pats’ 145-pounder whose persistence has paid off with a spot in the varsity lineup this season.
The Patriots do not have a regular wrestler to compete at 152 or 160 pounds.
Junior Zach Mantinrano is a newcomer to the sport who went from Charlie Voorhees’ football team to Roesing’s wrestling team. It helps that Roesing is also an assistant during the football season with Voorhees.
Nick Munoz is the lone senior on the team. He’s the team’s 182-pounder and has been a member of the Patriots’ lineup for four years.
“He just keeps getting better and better each year,” Roesing said of Munoz.
Munoz is also a credit to the athletic program at Secaucus. He’s headed to the United States Naval Academy in the fall.
There’s an interesting story brewing at 195 pounds. Junior John Young has never wrestled before and couldn’t because he’s a basketball player in the winter. But with the wrestling season moved to the newly created post-winter, pre-spring slot, Young is getting the chance to be a varsity letter winner in four different sports – football, basketball, baseball and wrestling.
“He said that he always wanted to try wrestling,” Roesing said. “He said he would be just sitting around, waiting for baseball practice to begin. So he came out for wrestling this year. He’s picking it up pretty well. It’s pretty amazing with him being a four-sport varsity athlete.”
The Patriots have two wrestlers sharing time at 220 pounds with juniors Jacob Anderson and Nick Bartletta, who is another football player.
There are also two heavyweight wrestlers in juniors Dylan Formisano and Massimo Iacopelli, both of whom also played football.
Roesing said that even though the Patriots don’t have a full lineup, they’re not ducking anyone at all.
“We’re still trying to wrestle our full schedule,” Roesing said. “We also want to help other teams out by wrestling. We want to wrestle as many matches as possible.”
But with 11 wrestlers, just getting out on the mats is a challenge in itself for the Patriots this season. – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com