By Kevin Saxe
Just over a year ago on Nov. 17, 2018 the Springfield College wrestling team was crowned the Doug Parker Invitational team champions. Fast forward a year and the Pride are looking to defend their title.
With three events in the books, the Pride have steadily improved every week going from sixth to start the season in Ithaca, to third at Kings, to a dominant performance in the City Championships at AIC on Sunday. The Pride have gotten off to a hot start this year but Head Coach Jason Holder knows that this early on in the season is as much about development as it is results.
“It’s been exciting to see the development week to week. That’s something at this point in the year we’re not really focused as much on winning and losing as far as the week to week progression of different things,” Holder said.
For the Pride entering the season, they knew that they would be without standouts Joe Fusco and Ryan Peters for a certain amount of time. Then, at Ithaca, senior Ian Tolotti was injured and that opened up another spot for other guys to step into and take advantage of the opportunity.
“The underclassmen have really stepped up. At 133 where Ian usually wrestles we’ve got guys like Gianni Manginelli, Chase Parrott, and Chris Trelli who have all stepped up and wrestled really well,” senior Nick Almonte said.
According to Holder, it has been a steady development amongst each class year that has contributed to the team’s early season success.
“Notably, Mike Vietri, Joe Parsons, Nick Monteleone who are juniors and have done pretty well,” Holder said. “Jacque St. Jean has wrestled really well as well as Chris Trelli has wrestled really well. I’ll tell you what this weekend Ryan Errico looked really good. It’s nice to see the development of our sophomores, juniors, and seniors and then combined with the addition of the Manginelli brothers and some other really good freshmen, it’s exciting.”
For Springfield, who have seen the development not just week-to-week this season, but an overall development from last year, it’s not just about being talented but also about being willing to do the right things. Holder believes he has a team full of wrestlers who are constantly striving to get better.
“I like the development, I hope it does continue,” Holder said. “I’m confident it will continue, we have guys who are figuring it out, working hard and taking advantage of the opportunity they have. We have a great group of young men who are hardworking and they understand culturally what it takes to get better.”
That development has shown each week with improving finishes that culminated with a standout performance at the City Championship against STCC, AIC and WNEU in which the Pride dominated to sweep the competition.
“(The) intensity looked good,” Holder said. “We were pushing the pace, and we were getting more physical which is something we need to do.”
The Pride are loaded at 125, 133, 141, and 149. With wrestlers like the Manginelli brothers, Trelli, St. Jean, Parrot, and Vietri as well as Robby Hartling, the team has to feel comfortable with a number of their guys off to phenomenal starts at these weight classes.
The Manginelli’s are currently a combined 16-4 and both took individual titles at Kings as well as second and sixth in their respective weight classes at Ithaca. The other wrestlers mentioned were among guys who were listed prior to the season to watch.
For the Pride, who will have more dual meets in the second half as well as their final competition of the first semester, a match at Roger Williams, having a chance to start strong in these duals at the lower weights will be beneficial for the Pride.
“At the lower weights if you normally start with some momentum in the matches, and everyone kind of feeds off of that, it’s a great energy to have,” Almonte said.
The second takeaway is the success the Pride have had without three of their best wrestlers in previous national qualifiers, Ian Tolotti and Joe Fusco, as well as one of last year’s breakout stars Ryan Peters. For this Pride team who have gotten contributions up and down the weight classes across all four class years, this is a team that could have numerous wrestlers competing at regionals with legitimate shots at qualifying for nationals down the road should the development continue.
For the Pride, they have three events left before their winter break. The first of those events is their defense of the Doug Parker Invitational. The second of those events, which takes place on Dec. 6 and 7, is the Messiah Petrofes Invitational where the Pride placed fifth last season. Finally the Pride conclude their first semester on Dec. 11 when they head to Rhode Island to face Roger Williams.
Both events present unique challenges.
“It’s the same mindset it has been and that’s getting better week to week. The one test that Doug Parker is, ‘let’s keep the momentum going,’” Holder said. There’s a big test after Doug Parker, and it’s that holiday in between. Thanksgiving really makes it challenging because these guys really need to be disciplined when they go home, and not pig out on all of the good food.
“We come back on Monday and we have to leave on Thursday to wrestle on Friday. That makes it a challenge, we’ve got a short week so we have to really be disciplined with their weight management.”
For members of the Pride like Almonte, there is not only excitement in the air to wrestle at home but also the challenge of keeping the positive momentum from the start of the season going.
“We’re really looking forward to the competition,” Almonte said. “It’s a tough tournament, it’s a big tournament for the Northeast region. I definitely say we’re prepared. I think the momentum carrying over from city championships and how we’ve wrestled in past tournaments will carry over into Doug Parker and we’ll be ready to take it by storm and hopefully take the trophy again.”
The Doug Parker Invitational will be held this Saturday Nov. 23 in the Field House. Matches will start at 10:30 a.m. with wrestlers from sixteen different schools throughout the New England and Mid-Atlantic region competing in their respective weight classes.
Featured photo courtesy Springfield College Athletics