As Gary Rabinovitz embarks on his second season at the helm of the Whitman-Hanson Regional High wrestling team, he is elevating expectations.
“We have a lot of wrestlers with a great deal of varsity experience and also several kids that have been through our youth program,” he said. “Bringing them up to speed will not be as challenging as a brand new wrestler would be.”
Headlining the crop of returning wrestlers ready to hit the mat for another season are senior captains Ben Cordingley (132 pounds last season), Steve Osborne (170) and Logan Scriven (160).
“Ben has been a varsity wrestler for the better part of his first three seasons,” Rabinovitz explained. “Logan is a real tough kid who I expect to win a lot of matches this year. Steve has stepped up and has become a true leader of this Panther squad. After missing his sophomore year, Steve worked really hard to make up for the lost time and I am expecting a great season from him.”
Other key pieces back in the fold for the team Rabinovitz is leaning on for production this season include sophomores Steve Brooks, who competed last winter in the 145-pound weight class, Tyler Cullinan, who saw plenty of action in the 160-pound weight class last season, and Matt Rock, who wrestled in the 120-pound weight class during the 2016-17 campaign. Also, junior Christian Schneider will likely be back in the 195-pound weight class and senior Bryce Lacombe, who missed all of last season with a shoulder injury, will be the Panthers’ heavyweight – a weight class they were forced to forfeit in every meet last year.
In fact, not only did W-H have to forfeit the heavyweight bouts, but it was also without a body in the 106 and 126-pound weight classes, which put the Panthers, who finished the year at 7-18, down 18 points immediately. However, that may not be an issue this time around.
“At this point it looks like we may be able to fill all 14 weight classes this year,” Rabinovitz said. “I feel we can be a .500 team this year at the very least. If we can fill all 14 weight classes then we are already 18 points ahead of last year to start every match. I like those odds very much.”
Rabinovitz said he feels this team’s biggest strength is its togetherness, which he hopes leads to success.
“By being so close nit as a unit, everyone works really hard together and supports each other,” he said. “Wrestling is not only an individual sport, it is also a team sport. When teammates push each other not only does the individual get better the whole team gets better. I also have to give a great deal of credit to my assistant coaches as they are great coaches and also all were Whitman-Hanson wrestling alumni. They know their role on our team and I am proud to have them on my team.”
Key losses for the Panthers from last season include Jake Filicicchia, Alex O’Roak and John Will, all of whom qualified for the Division 2 state tournament last winter.
W-H opens the season on Saturday, Dec. 9 at 10 a.m. at North Attleboro High School with a quad-meet against North Attleboro, East Providence and Pathfinder.
“The number one thing that I will be looking for from our team in the first couple of weeks is consistency,” Rabinovitz said. “We will work harder than our opponents and also smarter. As long as we can stay strong for a full sixminute match we will be fine.”