Staples wrestling on its way up despite dual meet loss
Following his team's 59-9 home dual meet loss to Greenwich, Staples senior tri-captain Julian Gendels sat hunched over in the bleachers of his school's gymnasium, replaying the footage of his match in his mind on Wednesday evening.
"It was my first loss of the season, so it was kind of rough, but I was just reflecting about it, just going over what I did wrong and how next time to wrestle him and the next time wrestling someone who uses the same move, how to counter it," said Gendels, whose individual record dropped to 6-1.
Unfortunately just like Gendels came across a formidable foe at the 285-pound weight class in Kyle Camacho, so too did the Wreckers' wrestling team. The Cardinals, ranked No. 9 in the both Norwich Bulletin and CT Wrestling Wire's coaches' polls, proved their mettle by winning seven matches by way of a pin.
Still Staples Coach Kevin Lippert took comfort in how his team was able to keep other matches close in spite only scoring team points during two matches.
"Greenwich is one of the best teams in the state," Lippert said. "We knew we were going to have a tough day today, but I will say I was very encouraged with the amount of matches that came very close and came down to the very end."
That would include Gendels' match as the two heavyweights took to the mat in the final and most anticipated event of the night.
Both combatants had scored two points heading into the final period when Camacho managed to get Gendels in a vice-like headlock and then proceeded to maneuver his body so that most of his massive frame sat mostly on top of Gendels at the 4:38 mark.
Lippert said that he not be surprised to see both Gendels and Camacho hooking horns in the finals of the FCIAC tournament.
"Although Julian got penned, those kids are pretty even with each other. The kid caught Julian on something and that could easily switch back the other way next time," Lippert said.
Fellow senior captain Chris Giunta improved his individual record to a spotless 7-0 one match before by winning a 5-1 decision over Greenwich's Joey McGuire at the 215-pound weight class. He jumped out to 3-0 lead in the second period after escaping the grasps of McGuire and then turning him on his back. Giunta added two more in the final period with another escape and a penalty point due to stalling by his opponent.
Giunta said that he has been working on improving his upper body offense and defense, but was somewhat taken back by his undefeated start.
"It's a little surprising. I'm having a good year," Giunta said. ["I'm] hoping to improve my record and hopefully help some of the younger kids improve their records, too."
He pointed out that last year's team only had one senior, Said Sarfaraz. This season, Staples' team features five seniors, three of whom are captains. That group includes Chris' brother, Mike, who sat out the match with an undisclosed injury, but hopes to be back in action next week at the 189-pound weight class.
"We're kind of assistant coaches, I guess, to the younger freshmen and sophomores. We have a few new kids this year. [We're] just trying to get them into the program and get them acquainted with wrestling," Chris Giunta said.
Staples sophomore Alex Brown earned his team's only pin by applying a type of half-Nelson to Greenwich's Greg Ghahramani at the 1:07 mark in the 119-pound weight class. Brown improved his record to 3-2.
The loss dropped Staples' team record to 1-4, while Greenwich improved to 6-2. Lippert remained confident that his team could achieve its goal of 20 team victories this season.
"We have a losing record and it looks like it's going back downhill again, but things are starting to fall in place for this team," Lippert said.
Added Gendels: "Let's put it this way: Almost every single match was either three points or one point [in difference]. It was very close.
Last year, it was all pins and it was quick. These matches are lasting longer than we expected."
Lippert pointed to the second-place finish his team had at the Fairfield Ludlowe Holiday Tournament to open the season on Dec. 18 as a barometer of progress.
He also mentioned that Wednesday marked the first time where all but one of his wrestlers (junior Mikell Washington, who wrestled at 189 pounds, but plans to drop down to 171) was able to drop down the weight they plan on wrestling at throughout the season.
When all is said and done, Lippert still believes his team will have seven to nine wrestlers who will be able to compete in both the FCIAC and Class LL tournaments, including juniors Jeremy Sherman (125 pounds), Mike O'Day (130) and Brad Menchaca. All three were part of close decisions on Wednesday night.
Staples will travel to Bunnell on Saturday for a meet at 10 a.m. that will also feature Immaculate, East Haven, Norwalk and Guilford.