By Kevin Saxe
The shriek of the whistle, the sound of the shoes on the maroon mats that adorn the Doug Parker Wrestling Room, and the heavy breathing after another practice is finished are all sounds that signal wrestling season is close.
The Springfield College wrestling team is in full swing preparing for the 101st season in team history. After 100 seasons and over 1,000 dual meet wins, the Pride are looking to kick off the second century of the wrestling program at Springfield with a bang.
For this Pride team who lost guys like Kearney Gutierrez and Aarin Feliz, they have a large team that includes a large freshmen class that will look to fill the void. According to third-year Graduate Assistant Jimmy Kaishian, the freshmen have already made their impact felt in practice.
“The freshmen are pushing the pace in practice, motivating our older guys, and bringing a ton of enthusiasm to our practices,” Kaishian said.
For the Pride who are carrying nearly 50 guys, including the large freshmen class, senior Roger Moyer, much like Kaishian, has been impressed with the freshmen thus far.
“What I really like about this freshman class is that they aren’t afraid to compete,” Moyer said. “They didn’t come in scared of the upperclassmen. They didn’t come in really cocky either. It was a great blend of respect your opponent but don’t be afraid to compete and show us what you have.”
Not only do the Pride bring in a large freshman class, but they return a number of talented returners who have been mainstays for the Pride. These wrestlers include seniors Joe Fusco, Ian Tolotti, and Nick Almonte as well as juniors Nick Monteleone, Ryan Peters, and Michael Vietri along with sophomores Jaques St. Jean, Chris Trelli, and Jared Tolotti.
With a team that has a great deal of youth, Kaishian emphasized the importance of the returners building a good culture.
“Having a young team it is important to get ahead on expectations, and culture setting,” Kaishian said. “Fortunately for us coaches we have a group of strong upperclassmen that set the tone in the room. Mike Vietri, Ian Tolotti, Joe Fusco, Ryan Peters, and honestly a bunch more are great leaders for our younger guys.”
With the combination of a talented class of first-years and a skilled group of returners across all classes Kaishian says the energy surrounding this team is the highest he’s seen in his three years here.
“I have never seen the energy surrounding the team like I have this year,” Kaishian said. “It really is amazing how the culture set by our upperclassmen is rubbing off on our younger guys.”
Wrestlers to Watch:
The first wrestler to watch is one of the two members of the Pride with experience on the national stage, Ian Tolotti. Tolotti, who came just one point away from being an All-American a season ago, is someone who both Kaishian and Moyer believe will have a big year.
“Ian Tolotti is one of the guys to look out for,” said Moyer, who’s been teammates with Tolotti for his entire time here at Springfield. “He’s one of the most decorated wrestlers we have coming back. He was one point away from being an All-American. He’s put that work in and is deserving of what he gets.”
“Returning national qualifier Ian Tolotti is shaping up to do some damage this year,” Kaishian said.
Kaishian would also point out the weight classes of 133 and 197.
“We have a lot of young talent there it will be interesting to see how that shakes out,” he said.
Listed at the spot of 133 is Tolotti, but after that is where it gets interesting. The two other returners at this weight are sophomores Jaques St. Jean and the younger brother of Ian Tolotti, Jared Tolotti.
There are also two freshmen listed at 133, Gianni Manginelli and William Parrot. At this weight class it’s clear that barring any unforeseen circumstances that the elder Tolotti is the top dog, but after him, it should be interesting who can prove themselves at this class whether it be the returners both eager to build off of solid freshmen campaigns or the first-years looking to prove worthy of competing at the collegiate level.
The other class mentioned was 197. Right now the three wrestlers listed at that weight class are all freshmen. The three are Dante Morris, Dakota Grover, and Sam Ware. With a young weight class, it should be interesting to see if any wrestler can take control of that spot.
For the Pride wrestling team, it is clear that energy is high as they enter into the first weekend of competition at the Ithaca Invitational, a two-day event to kick off the season this Friday, Nov. 1 and Saturday, Nov. 2. For the Pride this season Kaishian and the team have seemed to embrace the motto of “win the moment.”
“Our motto this year is ‘win the moment’ and the guys are taking that to heart, taking advantage of every opportunity to get better,” Kaishian said.
For the Pride, sticking to the “win the moment” motto is what they plan to do according to Kaishian this weekend as they travel to his alma mater for their season-opening invitational.
“We always have goals they may different from person to person, but our focus right now is winning the moment, we have the Ithaca invite Friday,” Kaishian said. “What can I do now to win that’s where our head is at?”
This is a Pride team that returns a large amount of experience as well as two wrestlers with NCAA tournament experience in Fusco and Tolotti. They also return Ryan Peters at 141 who came one win away from joining Tolotti at NCAA’s last season.
It is not unreasonable to believe that if Fusco, Tolotti, and Peters stay healthy then the Pride could have a chance to send three or more wrestlers to the NCAA tournament this year, especially if they get big performances both from the returners as well as potential impact newcomers. As the Pride get set to begin a season that could have high expectations for both individuals and the team, Kaishian says the team is not limiting themselves to “reasonable goals”.
“Sky’s the limit,” Kaishian said. “Often we set goals for our self that label as ‘reasonable’. What happens is those goals become limits, or self-made ceilings, and we begin to settle. So instead of setting those boundaries we are going to operate with the goal of being champions right now.”
Photo courtesy of Springfield College Athletics