The Bishop Hendricken wrestling team went 13-3 in dual meets last year, came in third in the state meet and took home six medals in the process. Those past successes are out of mind, though, as the Hawks are hoping the future is even brighter.
While Hendricken returns only three of those medalists this season, it has plenty of wrestlers ready to step in and fill the voids. With close to 50 team members currently on the roster, including 18 freshmen, there is no shortage of capable options who should be able to pick up the slack.
“I don’t even know who my starters are going to be,” Hendricken head coach Kevin Hennessey said. “We have great numbers and there’s a lot of competition right now in the room. That’s something to be happy about.”
And even without knowing how everything is going to shake out just yet, the Hawks still got the season started on the right foot over the weekend. They competed in a tournament at Massachusetts’s King Philip Regional High School, and finished in second place overall.
“It was a good showing,” Hennessey said. “I think it was just a good way to kick off the season. Not too tough, not too weak. Just what we needed.”
It was also affirmation for what Hennessey believes – that his team is capable of getting to the top.
“Our goal is to win the states,” Hennessey said. “My goal this year, specifically, is to go undefeated in dual meets. If we don’t set our goals high, there’s no point in having them.”
The three medalists back from last year’s squad are sophomore Jason Davol, junior Nick Parente and senior Mike Gelardi.
Davol came in fifth at the 103-pound weight class last year, while Parente came in sixth at 119 and Gelardi finished fifth at 135.
Hennessey expects those three to have strong showings once again.
“Davol is strong,” Hennessey said. “He’s a sophomore, and he’s a mature sophomore as far as his attitude goes. Parente doesn’t say anything. He just does what he’s supposed to. Mike’s still trying to decide what weight he’s going to wrestle.”
Two others – seniors Dan Cofone and Billy Stewart – are back and in the mix as well after both competing in the state meet a year ago.
Cofone was the team’s wrestler at 140, while Stewart – who is also a football player – wrestled as a heavyweight. They will likely be in the team’s regular lineup again.
Beyond that, however, not very much is set. The Hawks have been practicing for three weeks already, but the competition level has stayed high enough to give Hennessey some tough choices going forward.
“They work hard every day,” he said. “It’s a tough room. We don’t cut them any slack. If they weren’t driven or motivated, they would have quit by now.”
And that’s obviously good news for Hendricken, which will need to be tough if it wants to reach its goals. There will be no shortage of competition around the league.
Warwick Vets, the defending state champion, is expected to be strong again, as is last year’s runner-up Cumberland and fourth-place finisher Cranston West.
Vets, Cumberland and West are all in the same division, Division I-North, as are the Hawks.
“Vets will have some high finishers,” Hennessey said. “Cumberland is tough, Cranston West has a couple of studs out there. I think it’s going to be an interesting state tournament. I’m sure I’m forgetting some teams, but as the year goes on I’ll figure out who that is.”
Hendricken will find out a little more about itself, and the competition, early in the season. It opens league play on Thursday at Barrington at 7 p.m., before going to Cranston West for an invitational on Saturday with some of the state’s top teams.
After that, the season gets into full swing quickly, and Hendricken will start its march towards what it hopes is its first state title since the 2003-04 season.
“I think it’s going to come down to medal count – how many medals each team can take,” Hennessey said. “I think we’re going to do well. I think we’re going to take quite a few medals.”