The Toll Gate wrestling team is in the midst of one of the best stretches in the program’s recent history, with back-to-back 14-win seasons to its name.
Much of the heavy lifting in that run has been done by the team’s current seniors – and they don’t plan to take a step back in their final season.
“I think they get it,” said head coach Jerry Sabatelli. “They’ve been tested, they were close as far as the division title last year, they’ve been in medal rounds in big tournaments. They’re competitors and they work hard. I think they’re ready.”
The veteran core and the mindset they bring to the table should be the foundation for continued success. An expanding lineup helps the cause, too. Before practices began, the Titans didn’t have a single wrestler for any of the four lowest weight classes. But newcomers have turned out, and the lineup is now taking shape.
“Heading into the season, I didn’t have anybody under 138,” Sabatelli said. “I was not that optimistic, but we’ve got some bodies to fill and they’re working hard. With the experience I do have up top, that’s hopefully going to transcend down to the younger guys.”
The Titans have 10 seniors on the roster and most are experienced contenders. Aaron Travers was a state finalist at 138 last season and will be looking to bring home a title this season. Dave Navilliat made the state tourney quarterfinals at 170 last season and finished just outside the medals. Max Procopio, John DiGiuseppe, Joe Brosnahan, Ed Pierce, Matt Cullen and Tim Warner were all state tournament qualifiers.
The Titans also have Tyler Ekroth, Thomas Luongo and Joe Mercurio in the senior class.
“We’re senior heavy from 138 on,” Sabatelli said. “The thing about them is they started working before the season. They came in in decent shape.”
In the lower weights, the Titans will be looking for improvement. Freshman Nathan Lunsmann is wrestling 106, freshman Jordan Daponte and sophomore Mercedes Faust are competing at 112, junior Andrew Zelano is at 126 and junior Zach Caldarone is at 132.
The parade of veterans begins at 138, where Procopio is stepping in. Sophomore Alex Mowry could also be in the mix there. Travers is currently at 145, DiGiuseppe is at 152 and Brosnahan is at 160. Navilliat is back at 170, Mercurio is at 182, Pierce is in at 195, Ekroth has taken the job at 220 and Warner is at 285.
“When we’re healthy, I feel pretty good,” Sabatelli said. “We have a couple of injuries right now, but I don’t think it’s anything long term. When we put our best team out there, we’ll be in pretty good shape.”
And the Titans have already made a splash. They opened the season with a non-league match against Division I East Providence. It was a chance to get a good test – and then the Titans went out and won.
It could be a springboard.
“East Providence always has tough kids,” Sabatelli said. “I thought we’d be able to keep it close, but we had some kids step up and get some big wins for us. It was a good win.”
Building off that, the Titans finished fourth at North Kingstown’s Wilson Cup Tournament this past weekend, with Travers, Brosnahan and Pierce all winning first place medals.
League action was set to open Wednesday against East Greenwich, with results unavailable at press time. The Titans are hoping to be near the top of the D-II-North standings again, and they’ve also circled the Warwick City Championship on their calendar.
“The City Championship is at the top of the list,” Sabatelli said. “Last year, the kids really wanted it and that was good to see. We lost a close one to Vets but hopefully we can turn that around this year.”
The Titans will also be gearing up for the Division II Sectionals, where they finished third last year. Then it’s on to states, and the Titans hope to have a big contingent.
Their seniors would like to go out with a bang.
“We think we can be right there at sectionals,” Sabatelli said. “Exeter is going to be tough, Narragansett is tough, Barrington is there. If we stay healthy, we’ll be in the mix.”