The Toll Gate wrestling team didn’t have big numbers last season, but a strong core led the squad to its best dual-meet campaign in more than a decade. The Titans finished 14-2 in the regular season and placed fourth at Division II sectionals.
As the Titans get the 2012-13 season underway, their numbers still aren’t great – but that core is still looking very strong. The Titans lost only two of their starters from last year and are looking to contend for a division title once again.
“We’re pretty much in the same situation,” said head coach Jerry Sabatelli. “My numbers are down, but we’ve got a lot of experience returning. As long as we stay healthy, I think we’ll be in the hunt for the regular season title and be a contender at sectionals.”
The Titans have been building around their current nucleus for several years now, starting in the 2010-11 season. That year, a young squad flashed its potential with a 10-6 season. Following that, those young wrestlers took on leadership roles and recruited several new faces to fill out the lineup. The results spoke for themselves last year.
That enthusiasm and leadership is still on center stage.
“That core is really my junior class,” Sabatelli said. “They’re doing a great job.”
Toll Gate lost two starters to graduation – 132-pounder Dante Procopio and 152-pounder Tim McCorkle – but everyone else is back, and Sabatelli likes the way the lineup shapes up.
“The weights are pretty much shaping out to where we’ve been hoping,” he said.
Senior Colin Higgins, a back-up last year, is ready to step in at 106. Senior Austin Medeiros will slot in at either 113 or 120. Medeiros was a place-winner at the state meet during his sophomore year but didn’t have the same success last season. He’ll be looking for a bounce back.
“He didn’t have a good state meet last year, so we’ll be looking for him to come back strong and have a good year,” Sabatelli said.
Corey Longworth will fit in at either 120 or 126, depending on where Medeiros ends up. Then, in the 126 to 138 range, the Titans have one of the strongest parts of their lineup, with senior Joe Martinez and juniors Max Procopio and Aaron Travers in the fold. Martinez and Procopio were state-meet qualifiers last year, and Travers is the team’s most accomplished wrestler. As a sophomore last season, Travers qualified for New Englands with a third-place finish at 126 at states.
“He had a great year for us,” Sabatelli said.
The strength continues from there, with juniors John DiGiuseppe and Dave Navilliat next in line. DiGiuseppe won two matches at the state meet last year. Navilliat did the same and is poised for a breakout this year.
“He’s really improved,” Sabatelli said.
At 170, junior Joe Mercurio returns. Sophomore Ed Pierce and junior Tyler Ekroth are back and in line for the 182 and 195-pound weight classes. Juniors Matt Cullen and Tim Warner return for the top two spots.
There isn’t much depth beyond the starting lineup, but if the Titans can hold it together, they’ll be contenders.
“As long as we’re healthy,” Sabatelli said. “That’s a big thing because we probably only have four or five other guys. If one guy goes down, that’ll hurt.”
But that won’t stop the Titans from challenging themselves. They’ve already wrestled three Division I teams – Johnston, Chariho and North Kingstown – and they’ll go against East Providence this week. Toll Gate lost to Johnston by 10 in a meet at Narragansett on Saturday, but beat D-I teams Chariho and North Kingstown.
“I like to make it tough for my kids,” Sabatelli said. “I want them to see that competition.”
If all goes according to plan, that will help the Titans put together another big season.
“I think we’ve got some guys who can have a nice little run at states,” Sabatelli said. “We’ll just play it all by ear and see how it goes.”