Medina wrestling team looks to develop talent this season
By Kevin Prise Medina Journal-Register
The Medina wrestling team had a strong season in Niagara-Orleans League play last year, boasting a winning record and showing itself as plenty capable against the rest of the league.
This year, veteran head coach Eric Gross has some concerns regarding the team’s depth, but is confident that his wrestlers, while on the mats, will do more than just hold their own against N-O competition.
“Our numbers usually hurt us,” said Gross, who enters his 14th season coaching wrestling at Medina, after serving three years as coach at Lew-Port HS. “It’s hard to fill the weight classes. But we’ve got some strong wrestlers, and our kids should be pretty competitive.”
The Mustangs currently maintain a roster of 27 wrestlers, which is not enough to fill the weight classes across the varsity and junior varsity levels (15 varsity and 15 JV). Gross said that it’s not easy for any N-O school to field a full team of wrestlers, and that schools able to accomplish this feat — such as Newfane and Akron — tend to fare well in league play.
Gross said the Mustangs are returning seven varsity-level wrestlers for this season, including senior Ben Howell, a member of the Medina boys soccer team that defeated Newfane for the B-1 championship in October. Freshman Brennen Callara is back after winning a league championship in the 99-pound weight class last season, as is junior Nick Erway, league champion at 120 pounds.
Sophomore Joe Velez returns, as does sophomore Hunter Freeman, junior Nick Doberstein and sophomore Charles Beach, who was named the Medina football team’s lineman of the year at last week’s team banquet.
Last season, the Mustangs went 4-2 in N-O play, a season highlighted by a win over eventual league champion Akron.
“That’s why you wrestle,” Gross pointed out.
Medina also defeated Roy-Hart, Barker and Wilson last season, while losing against Albion and Newfane, Gross said.
The Mustangs may be inexperienced as a unit this season, but Medina has a history of producing state representative wrestlers, including five in the 2008 season, Gross said. The team has won two league titles over the past 14 seasons, he added.
Medina’s key losses include Rob Wendt and “ultimate team guy” Adam Eick, as well as standout Matt Montesanti, a two-time sectional champion who placed second in the state in his weight class as a senior, Gross said.
As for this year’s batch of younger players, Gross hopes to develop them and keep them focused on the sport despite the inherent difficulties of competing while learning the intricacies of wrestling.
“We’re going to try to build up our younger guys,” Gross said. “We don’t want to play them against too high-level competition; we want them to go against guys with equal ability. We’ll give them some JV tournaments to develop, and we definitely don’t want to lose them.”
The Mustangs open their season on Dec. 7, traveling 105 miles to the Maple Grove Tournament in Bemus Point.
Niagara-Orleans League play begins on Dec. 11, with Medina drawing Wilson in the league opener.