By Jordan J. Michael
GUILDERLAND –– Despite forfeiting points during Suburban Council dual meets because of five vacant weight classes, the Guilderland wrestling team is using its muscle to push through the season. The Dutch have been low on numbers over the past few years.
Guilderland doesn’t have wrestlers competing at the 195-pound, 220-pound, and 285-pound weight classes, as well as “a few others,” said varsity assistant John D’Ambrosio at practice on Monday.
“The numbers could always be better,” he said, “but the kids we do have are all great kids. They work hard and buy into what we’re coaching. That’s the important part.”
Don Favro struggled to fill up the team roster when he took over the head coaching position two years ago. This week, Favro tried to wrap his head around the concept. Wrestlers still aren’t coming out.
“I wish I had the answer,” said Favro of the low numbers. “It’s a hard sport, so maybe guys are finding easier things to do? You go back two years, and it’s the same problem. Sometimes, it’s hard getting kids to commit to wrestling.”
The Dutch also have a few injuries. Seniors Jessie Futia and Jeremy Lamb are waiting to get cleared to return to action.
With an incomplete team, Suburban Council dual meets aren’t the focus. The focal point for the Guilderland wrestlers are tournaments and sectional competition. The Dutch have a wall full of names of sectional champions in its practice room, and most of the current wrestlers aspire to be on it.
“It’s not that we don’t care about the dual meets, but we look to see how the kids do, not the final score,” said D’Ambrosio, who placed sixth in the state as a senior at Guilderland in 2006. “We’re trying to reach the ultimate goal.”
Guilderland Athletic Director, Regan Johnson, who coached the wrestling team from 1996 to 2007, said that, currently, no one is actively recruiting wrestlers at the middle school. Johnson said that the varsity weight classes were routinely filled when he was coach.
“Wrestling is a unique sport, and it’s not for everybody, but it is for a lot of kids,” said Johnson, who wrestled with Favro at the State University of New York College at Brockport. “We just need to find the right kids.”
High schools field a lot of team sports, but wrestling is one versus one. The pressure falls on the individual. Plus, Favro trains his wrestlers pretty hard.
“It’s me versus you, and that’s it,” Johnson said. “A lot of kids don’t like how individual wrestling is, but a lot do like it.”
Johnson established a youth wrestling program while he was coaching at Guilderland. “If kids are interested in wrestling, then they should start getting excited about it at an earlier age,” he said. “Maybe they played football, or maybe they didn’t play any other sports at all,” he said of those who are wrestling now.
D’Ambrosio told The Enterprise that anyone could be a successful wrestler. Guilderland does not judge.
“It doesn’t matter what body type, how strong you are, or how fast you are,” said D’Ambrosio. “It’s all about being able to apply technique to your body type, and anyone can be successful that way.”
Guilderland coaches like to apply wrestling moves to everyday things, D’Ambrosio said. This helps the wrestlers improve because they can relate.
A “blast double” is a double-leg take down, like a football tackle, when the wrestler actually blasts through the opponent. A “flare double” is when a wrestler lifts the opponent up and swings his legs through the air like a flare. A “cross wrist” is when the wrestler takes his opponent’s wrist, moving the wrist across the body.
“A lot of the names correspond to how the technique actually works,” said D’Ambrosio. An “under hook” means the wrestler has a hook under his opponent’s arm. “At this point, we’ve installed the techniques,” he said. “We’re closer to fine-tuning them right now.”
Juniors Josh LoGiudice (99 pounds) and Mike Lainhart (106 pounds) are both currently undefeated for the Dutchmen. LoGiudice placed third at State Qualifiers last season and Lainhart was fifth. Lainhart says he uses whatever techniques are available.
“I’m really aggressive,” Lainhart said. “I like to pound people down, not let them get up off the mat. I don’t really have any mercy.”
LoGiudice said that quickness is his best aspect. “I’m more quick than powerful,” he said. “I’m smaller and more agile than some of the other kids. I’m usually just trying to reach out and grab an arm or a leg.”
Even though Guilderland can’t fill all its weight classes, it still gets leadership from seniors Ryan Harris, John Stuto, and Futia. D’Ambrosio said it’s like having a bunch of other coaches in the room.
Favro would like to see more wrestlers on the team, but he’s trying to focus on the positives. Some of the Suburban Council scores will be tough to swallow. The Dutch hosted Bethlehem on Wednesday.
A big motto for Guilderland is “control what you can control,” D’Ambrosio said.
“Sometimes, you can’t control a call in a match or the other kid you’re wrestling, but you can control how hard you work and how well you prepare,” concluded D’Ambrosio. “It’s just like life. You can’t control the assignment the teacher assigns or who assigns it, but you can control how hard you try.”