Foran gets better daily with wrestling room competition

Craig Mager, Kyle Pokornowski and Anthony Giordano are Foran wrestling captains.

Craig Mager, Kyle Pokornowski and Anthony Giordano are Foran wrestling captains.

Foran High Athletics / Contributed photo

Foran coach Dave Esposito feels that his wrestling team is ready to return from its pandemic induced layoff.

“We have a good plan, a good blueprint on what we want to do,” Esposito said. “I tell the kids it’s about getting better. It’s not about being good in December; it’s about being good in February. Our teams traditionally have peaked in February. So, that is what our goal is again this year.”

The numbers game turned out okay for Esposito, who has led Foran to the state finals in seven of the past eight seasons. The Lions won titles in 2016 and 2018.

“We had about 34 kids come out. Of those I would say at least 10 are new to the sport. So, we had a nice turnout of kids coming out and trying it, which is great,” he said. “I was a little concerned because we lost a whole year. Not only did we lose an entire year with the high school kids, but we lost a whole year of the youth program. Usually, we have five or six eight graders come up. So, I was worried about the numbers, but they were actually pretty good. That has always been one of our strengths, our depth.”

Time away did bring with it challenges.

“Every year is a chance to help them develop as wrestlers,” Esposito said. “All the kids have stagnated for a couple of years. This has been about picking up where we left off two years ago.”

Esposito thinks parity could be the offshoot of the lost seasons.

“Everyone, including traditional powers, are going to take a bit of a hit,” he said. “A good thing is that every team is in the same boat. No team is behind anyone else. I think the teams that deal with that separation best are going to be the most successful. I don’t know, but I think you are going to see a balanced season.”

It is business as usual in the Lions’ wrestling room.

Esposito said: “You have to get competition every day or you are not going to get better. We had wrestle offs last week. Every weight class was tested. That keeps everyone on their toes. It keeps everyone working hard. To me, the key to a successful program is to have competition in the room on a daily basis. We are lucky to have that again this year.”

Season opener

Foran defeated Notre Dame-West Haven, 70-6. The Lions recorded eight pins, were awarded a pair of forfeits, and won three decisions. Mason Hallstrom (113 pounds), Antonio Madero (126), Craig Mager (132), Kyle Pokornowski (145) and Oliver Ardrey (152) earned first period falls. Joe Cichowski pinned in 2:30 at 182 pounds. Eliot Poffenberger won his 195-pound bout in 2:35. Max Newtown scored a four-point major decision (14-4) at 170. Anthony Giordano won 4-2 at 138. James Taylor posted a 9-8 decision at 160.

“Our match with Notre Dame was even better than I could have imagined. It was a good effort and a good thing to build on moving forward,” Esposito said. “It was a good start. I’m very happy with everything.”

Up next

“We are going to Berlin for an individual tournament on Saturday. Then we open at home against Fairfield Prep on Tuesday,” Esposito said. “I typically like the dual format better because more kids get more out of it. This is the one individual tournament that we will do. It is the one we have been doing for a long time. Jim Day was the coach at Berlin. I had a lot of respect for him. He passed away a few years ago and because of him I want to keep supporting the tournament. It is a high-quality tournament. It will be a litmus test for us.”

Senior’s lament

“I feel bad,” Esposito said of his 2021 team not being able to compete for a return to the Class M final. “The good thing is that the one kid I felt sorriest, Ethan Edmondson, has gone on to wrestle in college at WPI. At least it wasn’t the end of his wrestling career. That took some of the sting off it.”

College update

Foran has a handful of wrestlers competing in college

“Gino (Esposito) is at North Carolina, Mike Ross is wrestling at Jonathan & Wales,” Esposito said. “He is probably one of the top two guys in the country in Division II. Ryan Luth is ranked seventh in the country at Washington & Lee in Virginia.

“That’s good. It lets our wrestlers see that success and it can be an inspiration. Many kids have gone on and wrestled on the club level in college. Ricky Kratzer wrestled that way at UNH. Patrick Brogan wrestled club at UConn. They came back and told me they really enjoyed it.”

Should I stay

Foran didn’t lose any players to out-of-state programs during the shutdown. “None of our guys went anywhere, and I haven’t heard of any wrestlers leaving to compete out of state,” Esposito said. “We only had one guy wrestle (Kyle Pokornowski) and that was in an elite New England tournament.”

william.bloxsom@hearstmediact.com Twitter: @blox354