The Toll Gate wrestling team has had no problem getting wins so far this season, but one slight problem it has had is racking up pins when it had the opportunity.
Against Cranston East on Tuesday, the Titans continued to win – and they started to get those elusive pins. Toll Gate easily out-paced the ’Bolts 58-24, and won by pin in eight of the 12 contested matches.
“I think we did well,” Toll Gate head coach Jerry Sabatelli said. “We’ve been working on trying to finish our opponents, getting some pin points and we finally put it together tonight.”
The win was Toll Gate’s seventh straight in Rhode Island to open the season and it improved its Division II record to 6-0, trailing only 7-0 Barrington in D-II-North. The Titans also have a non-league win over Division I East Providence.
They’ve won most of their matches handily, but they haven’t had a team effort like they got on Tuesday.
After East forfeited at 106 to begin the match, Toll Gate went on a run of seven straight victories in contested matches, including six pins. The Titans forfeited at 126, but by the time the match reached the 170-pound weight class they were up 46-6.
With some new faces in the lower weight classes, getting those wins to provide a cushion for some of the veteran wrestlers was a nice change.
“That’s where we’ve been struggling a lot is down low, because we’re kind of brand new there,” Sabatelli said. “But those guys, from 106 to 132 are really coming along. When you have some senior leadership in the middle and upper part of your lineup, guys who work hard in practice, they see that and they feed off of that.”
Many of the pins came quickly. Jorden Daponte got the ball rolling with a third-round pin of East’s Jared Sajche-Meza at 113, and Anthony Zelano wasted no time doing his part with a pin of Jay DeJesus just 51 seconds into the first round at 120.
After the forfeit at 126, Zach Caldarone trailed 2-1 to Michael Baptista after the first round at 132, but started up in the second round and pinned Baptista 13 seconds in. That put Toll Gate up 24-6.
That was a commanding lead for the Titans, who had their best wrestlers still to take the mat.
“I was very pleased with Caldarone at 32 and Zelano at 20,” Sabatelli said. “New guys in the lineup who kind of stepped it up tonight. Lately, we’ve been chasing points heading into 138, which is pretty much my bread and butter.”
At 138, Max Procopio couldn’t keep the pin-streak going for Toll Gate, but he still won convincingly 10-2 over Jorge Hernandez. At 145, Aaron Travers pinned Gianni Andreoli 1:01 into the match, and John DiGiuseppe followed with a first-round pin of his own at 152, taking down Randy Duran just before the round came to a close.
In the next match, at 160, Joe Brosnahan pinned Grant Scott late in the first period. Toll Gate led 46-6.
“That’s these guys – they have that competitive nature,” Sabatelli said. “They have that drive to compete. We’ve talked a lot about goals this year.”
East finally won a match at 170, with Steven Ferrazzano pinning Joe Mercurio in the third round of a close match after numerous blood-time delays. The Titans got right back in the win column at 182 though, with Dave Navilliat pinning Logan McConaghy 1:17 into the first round.
Navilliat, one of Toll Gate’s top wrestlers, wore a brace on his shoulder after missing the previous few meets.
“It’s good to see Dave Navilliat back in the lineup tonight, who’s been out a bit,” Sabatelli said. “As soon as we get full strength, I think we’re going to be in pretty good shape.”
Ed Pierce took the mat next at 195 and registered yet another first-round pin, taking East’s Brendan Lanigan to the mat with 46 second still on the clock.
The final two matches belonged to East, with their top wrestlers Greg Scott and Kenny Irizarry pinning Tyler Ekroth and Timothy Warner at 220 and heavyweight, but that did nothing to take away from what was one of Toll Gate’s better all-around efforts of the season.
“I’ve got six or seven seniors in the lineup that have been there for the last several years and they showed that they realize that time is winding down,” Sabatelli said.
There’s still a ways to go for the Titans, though, as they haven’t yet wrestled their top competition in D-II – Barrington and Exeter-West Greenwich. The meet with EWG is Jan. 29 and they’ll wrestle Barrington on Feb. 11.
Toll Gate was scheduled to be back in action on Wednesday at home against Tolman, with the results unavailable at press time. On Saturday, it will travel to Warwick Vets for the Hurricane Invitational, then take the mat for a tri-meet the following Wednesday against Central Falls and a tough Ponaganset team.
The day after that, Thursday Jan. 23, Toll Gate will compete in the Warwick City Championship, which it is hosting this season. It has never won that meet.
Then it’s back to the grind of the league schedule, with some other tough matches sprinkled in, as the Titans continue to work toward making it a special season.
“We’ve got the City Meet next week, we’re hoping to win that for the first time,” Sabatelli said. “In a couple weeks we signed up for a quad against Johnston, Coventry and Hendricken. That’s this team – they don’t care. They want to wrestle the best. If we lose, we get back to the mat and figure out why and work from there.”