GHS wrestling captains, from left; Andrew De La Rosa, Andi Jano, and Nathaniel Post are leading a resurgence for a Guardians’ program that has seen an increase in number of wrestlers.
Two years removed from the Covid-cancelation, Glastonbury High School wrestling is nearly back to full force.
Head coach Jake Jones is thrilled with the increased number of wrestlers coming into the program, which includes eight freshmen this winter.
“We only lost one senior last year and came back with most of our team,” stated Jones. “We’re working hard and we wrestled a ton over winter break, so these guys haven’t stopped much.”
Last Wednesday, the Guardians visited Wethersfield High School and soundly defeated a short-handed Eagles team 60-18, highlighted by a half dozen wins –– all by the way of a pin.
Junior captain Andrew De La Rosa started the pin parade, downing Marcello Alcala just 13 seconds into the match.
De La Rosa, who is coming off an all-conference season and a top-five finish as a sophomore at the Class LL state finals a year ago, said he believes the team can be contenders at both the conference and class finals.
“The team has gotten a lot better and our numbers are better than last year. A lot of new guys are getting better a lot faster,” added the confident De La Rosa, whose goal is nothing short of a Class LL state title in the 145-pound division this winter.
Captaining the team with De La Rosa are seniors Andi Jano and Nathaniel Post.
Jano wrestles at 195 pounds and has embraced the leadership role, saying, “I love being a captain of this team. Everyone is super energetic and we all want to win and work hard.”
“Honestly I love seeing everyone improve. Every dual meet and every tournament, I’m constantly seeing them improving,” Jano said of the development of the younger wrestlers.
Post, who wrestles at 132 pounds, said the biggest aspect of mentoring the next generation of Guardians is making sure they are mentally ready to compete every day.
“We’re trying to introduce them to the sport as quickly as possible,” added Post, who says the team is now facing a crossroads in the season. “This is a point where a lot of teams reach a wall and they either break through it or they stay where they are. I think we have a potential to break through it.”
Jones said all three of his captains have embraced the leadership role, crediting them for being his eyes and ears in the school.
“I don’t work at Glastonbury High School, so I need to lean on those guys,” said Jones, who is in his third season leading the program. “Overall they are extremely responsible and great young men. I can really rely on them.”
Other wrestlers scoring wins by pin against Wethersfield were Ryan Ouellette (120), Chris Ouellette (126), Kyle Amirault (152), and Sidrit Ferizaj (220).
After struggling through the regular season a year ago because of a lack of wrestlers, Jones said the biggest difference this season is having enough wrestlers to fill the weight slots.
“I love filling all the weights. That is half the battle in wrestling,” added Jones. “If you don’t have enough guys and you’re giving up six points in a forfeit, it’s hard to make that up.”
Between last season and this season, Jones has only had four total seniors in two years. 2022-graduate Michael Maciolek captained the team a year ago, while Jano, Post, and Na-zir Johnson are the team’s only three seniors this season.
With over 20 wrestlers slated to return next season and what looks to be another strong incoming freshman class, the program is nearly back to pre-Covid numbers.
The uptick in numbers is a good sign for a program that is seeking to get back to the status of two decades ago when they finished as the runner-up at the class finals in consecutive seasons in 2003 and 2004.
Jones believes one of the team’s biggest strengths is this season is conditioning, which allows them to battle deep into matches.
He added that he’d like to see the team show a little more fight when their backs are against the wall.
“It’s a tough sport. If you’re not tough you’re not going to last and that is kind of the biggest show of toughness when you’re at their mercy and you’re on your back,” said Jones. “You’re either going to fight them off or the match is over. I’d like to see us show more of that fight.”
The Guardians have one remaining home dual meet on Wednesday, Feb. 1 when they welcome East Hartford to GHS for a match at 6 p.m.
GHS will also host the Central Connecticut Conference championships, scheduled for Feb. 3 and 4.
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin