The Pilgrim wrestling team was competing out of place last season in Division I, and it showed. The Pats stumbled to a 1-13 record in dual meets.
It won’t get any easier this season, as Pilgrim will wrestle for one more season in the state’s top division before moving down to either D-II or D-III next year. Until that happens, though, the Pats will just try to make the best of a tough situation.
“The difference between Division I and Division II are the D-I teams have their kids going year-round,” Pilgrim head coach Tom O’Connor said. “We’re one of the few that don’t, and we don’t because the kids are involved in other sports.”
Still, there are reasons for optimism, as the Pats return nearly every contributor from last year’s team.
Over this past weekend, Pilgrim had three wrestlers – seniors Brian Ledo and Brandon Kavanagh and junior Mark Lenz – take fourth place in a tournament at Massachusetts’s King Philip High School.
Pilgrim may not be competing for a title at the end of the season, but O’Connor thinks the pieces are in place for the Pats to be competitive.
“The kids are showing up, they’re working hard,” O’Connor said. “We’re real young in wrestling terms. They’re a good group. They work hard.”
The strength of the team is going to come in the weight classes from the 120’s to the 140’s. In those spots, Pilgrim has a strong group of wrestlers who will vie for a place in the lineup and should push each other to get better.
“That whole group around the 30’s, they’re all stepping up their game,” O’Connor said. “They’re all trying to get on the mat.”
Lenz and Ledo are in that group, along with freshman Steve Cabral, sophomore Jordan DeSisto, junior Chris Fitta and senior Mark Tomaselli.
That group will likely make up the 120, 126, 132 and 138 pound weight classes, and potentially 145 as well.
“We’ve got a logjam from the 20’s to the 40’s,” O’Connor said. “There’s a lot of experience.”
In the other spots, Pilgrim also feels pretty comfortable.
Sophomore Adam Landroche is slotted in at 106, with sophomore Nick Masse at 113. At 145, senior Chad Jackman should get a look, while Kavanagh is wrestling at 152.
At 160, the Pats don’t have much experience, but O’Connor thinks freshman Griffin Potter could fill the void. Junior Josh Fiola is penciled in at 170, as is junior Luke Verrier at 195. Gage Potter is handling 220, and sophomore Michael Turchette is the team’s heavyweight.
Others, such as senior Alex Cardin, will get their chance as well.
In terms of winning matches, O’Connor believes the team’s best chance is for its wrestlers to stay on their feet. There may be some struggles when the action goes to the ground, and that was true at the King Philip tournament.
“We’re going to continue to get better,” O’Connor said. “That’s the goal. All we can do is try to win the matches on our feet. When they get on top of us, we’re in trouble.”
For the Pats, it’s a learning process.
“Other teams have already progressed on to their counters and we’re still trying to teach basic things,” O’Connor said.
But that isn’t going to stop the Pats from coming out and doing whatever they can on the mats. They open the regular season on Wednesday when they host North Kingstown at 7 p.m.
With close to 30 wrestlers on the roster, and only a handful of them being seniors, there is plenty of hope for the future.
As far as the present goes, though, it’s not necessarily going to be about winning consistently as much as it is about learning, developing and improving.
“We’ll be positive and keeping the numbers up at the end of the year will be important,” O’Connor said. “We’re still young.”