Highlanders Wrestling Aims High
Portland High School wrestlers (from left) Spencer Rosado, Andrew Johnson, and Tyler Quinn following the Casey Yates Annual Memorial Wrestling Invitational on Jan 8. Rosado and Quinn placed 2nd and Johnson placed 3rd in their respective weight classes.
Mark Favale is on his second go-around as the head coach of the Portland High School wrestling team.
After coaching the team for a decade, Favale stepped away in 2013 before returning to be the face of the program three years ago.
“It’s nice to be back in the wrestling room,” Favale said of his second stint. .
His first year back with the team was a trying one as high school wrestling was canceled for the 2021-2022 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, causing a dip in the number of wrestlers that came back across the state the following season.
But that dip didn’t hurt the team’s production a year ago as the team finished 11th overall at the Class S state championships last winter.
Standouts Spencer Rosado and Andrew Johnson are back after placing 3rd and 5th in their respective weight classes at the state finals a season ago.
After serving as team captains as juniors, Rosado and Johnson have also returned to that leadership role as seniors.
“We set the example that if you want to be on this team you’ll be joining something that has to do with excellence, hard work, and passion,” said Rosado, who wrestles at 138 lbs. “The younger guys want to be part of that and they want to put that hard work in and do what it takes.”
Johnson, who wrestles at 182 lbs., added, “We started the season off with a lot of new faces, but at the same time we had that culture in the room from the returning wrestlers. We are a hard working team and the new kids are learning.”
The team’s third captain, senior Jacob Maruschock, suffered a season-ending knee injury prior to the meets starting, yet
Favale said he has not wavered from his captain duties.
Favale called Maruschock his “coach in the school.”
“He has stepped up a lot and basically been a third coach on the team,” added Favale. “He comes to every practice and he helps the young kids a lot. He’s my go-to whenever I need anything done.”
Coaching the team with Favale is assistant coach Dan Harding, who previously wrestled at State University of New York College (SUNY).
Favale said Harding does a lot of the heavy lifting in the weight room and practice room, getting the team ready for competition. He added that the head coach and assistant coach labels are “in title only” and that the two work in unison to help the wrestlers in whatever way they can.
According to Favale, it is also a balanced lineup on the mat this season.
“We fill up all the weight classes and we’re deep in a lot of them,” added Favale.
The results are reflecting that depth as the Highlanders won 12 of their first 15 contests this winter.
“The captains have set the tone; they set a good example in practice,” said Favale. “It’s a nice balance between working hard and having fun.”
The team recently took fifth overall at the Casey Yates Annual Memorial.
Rosado and junior Tyler Johnson each made the championship match, finishing 2nd in their respective weight classes. Johnson placed 3rd, while Ethan Dean, Ethan Krasniewski, and Matt Gish, who is one of three wrestlers from Cromwell High School that competes with the Highlanders, also finished 4th.
Both Rosado and Johnson said they set lofty goals prior to the season and each eye a state title individually, yet it’s the team aspect that they say has carried the team this season.
“We were connected friendship wise-before we even started wrestling, so it’s a tight bond,” said Rosado, whose younger brother Joshua Rosado is a freshman on the team. “I see a lot of similarity in myself because I started wrestling as a freshman and it’s kind of nice being able to show him things so he didn’t have to learn the hard way.”
Johnson called the team a “brotherhood.”
“We’ve been in the same friend group since kindergarten, so the chemistry is there,” added Johnson. “Wrestling is a lifestyle and we’re all a family here.”
The Highlanders will host consecutive multi-school meets over the next two weekends, starting this Saturday, Jan. 21 when they welcome teams to Portland High School for the Arrigoni Classic, starting at 10 a.m.
On Saturday, Jan. 28 the program will hold their annual Highlander Invitational, starting at 9 a.m.
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin