The Pilgrim wrestling team has had a tough time the past two seasons in Division I, winning a combined four dual meets over that span.
Just prior to that, though, the Pats had three consecutive winning seasons in Division II. And now, after Interscholastic League realignment, they’re back in D-II and hoping to pick up where they left off.
In 2010, its last year before the move to D-I, Pilgrim went 10-6 and finished first in D-II-A.
“We go down, we win,” Pilgrim head coach Tom O’Connor said. “We go up, we lose. We’re one of those in-betweeners.”
If that logic holds true, then the Pats are in for a strong season. They bring back some of their top wrestlers from a year ago, have some newcomers who should step right in as freshmen and make an impact and they have close to 30 total wrestlers.
The Pats are excited for what lies ahead.
“It’s still going to be a tough season, but I expect us to be right up at the top,” O’Connor said.
Any team success Pilgrim does have will start with its captains, who are all coming off seasons in which they had some pretty solid individual success.
Senior Jordan DeSisto finished fourth last year at the state meet as a junior in the 120-pound weight class, and he’ll be trying to wrestle at the same weight again this season.
“He’s going to be tough down low,” O’Connor said.
Senior Mark Lenz is another captain, and he won three matches at states last year at 138. Over the weekend, Pilgrim competed in the King Phillips Tournament in Massachusetts and Lenz took home second place. He’ll be wrestling at 145 this year.
The third captain, senior Gage Potter, took fifth in that tournament, and he’ll wrestle at the 220-pound weight this year after being a heavyweight last season.
“I really expect them to wrestle hard,” O’Connor said.
There’s some pretty solid talent elsewhere, as well.
Freshman Steven Johnston will likely wrestle at 132, and he’s had experience in the Warwick PAL ranks over the past few years.
“I think Johnston is going to surprise a lot of people with how tough he is,” O’Connor said.
At 113, Junior Adam Landroche is back for his third season with the team and has made some big strides. He could be in for a breakout year.
“Adam Landroche down low, he’s coming into his third year of wrestling and he’s come a long way,” O’Connor said. “He’s looking good.”
At 106, junior Nick Masse is penciled in, while on the other end of the spectrum junior Zach Rovinski is handling the job at heavyweight.
Then, though, there are some question marks, but that’s not necessarily a negative. The Pats have a lot of different wrestlers competing for a number of spots.
At 126, freshman John Pierce and junior Cameron Healey are in the mix, while 132 could also be a place for them, along with senior Chris Fitta. The 138 class will be made of the same group, plus senior Brianna Florio.
After that, at 152, 160, 171 and 189, there are as many as six wrestlers jockeying for positions.
It’s a good problem to have. Everyone is pushing each other.
“The tough kids are working hard,” O’Connor said. “This is the hardest the group has worked in a number of years. You don’t have anyone sitting out to the side saying, ‘I’m hurt,’ or ‘I banged my knee.’ Start to finish, they go. Each week I try to make it a little tougher on them, see when they’re going to break, and they haven’t broken yet.”
O’Connor is hoping that pays off in the standings.
“The kids don’t wrestle year-round, that’s why we can’t compete in D-I,” O’Connor said. “But we’ve got a real good coaching staff that works hard, and our kids work hard, so we can compete with the kids that have wrestled for just four years.”
The Pats will begin their Division II slate on Thursday when they travel to Moses Brown to take on the Quakers and Narragansett, beginning at 4:30 p.m.