The Panthers look to snap a streak of two seven-win seasons.
What was once a weakness is now a strength for the Whitman-Hanson Regional High wrestling team.
“We were very young last season and all of our returning wrestlers gained valuable varsity time,” said third-year head coach Gary Rabinovitz. “In wrestling, experience and mat time counts and we have a lot of that returning this year. Taking your licks one year makes you a better wrestler the next.”
The Panthers return all three of their Div. 2 South Sectional qualifiers and their top two wins leaders, as they try to push past the seven-win mark, where they’ve been stuck on for the past two winters.
“The goal has been to grow this program to the next level and that has not changed,” Rabinovitz said. “We will look to improve on our dual meet win-loss record and then qualify several wrestlers for the D2 state championships in February.”
The program’s youth is its best chance to propel it to the next level. Junior captain Steve Brooks returns to the mat to compete in the 152-pound weight class yet again after posting a team-leading 19 victories and 15 pins to qualify for Div. 2 South Sectionals last season.
“Steve worked hard in the offseason wrestling at Dungeon Training Center in Hanover,” Rabinovitz said. “With two sessions of offseason wrestling under his belt, Steve should be a more competitive wrestler this year.”
Sophomores Matt Butler, Damari Goldsmith-Greene and Myles McInnis headlined an impressive core of freshmen to hit the mat last season. The three combined for 38 wins. Butler returns to the 126-pound weight class after he ranked second on the team with 16 victories, placed in three tournaments and qualified for the Div. 2 South Sectionals.
“Matt Butler brings a lot of energy and experience to this year’s team,” Rabinovitz said.
Goldsmith-Greene produced 11 victories and 55 points out of the 132-pound weight class last winter. “Damari has been working very hard every day in practice and looks like a seasoned veteran,” Rabinovitz said. “Damari will start the season in the 138-pound weight class and looks to drop to the 132-pound weight class before too long.”
Myles McInnis also racked up 11 victories, but in the 106-pound weight class. This winter he’ll compete at 113 pounds. His brother Joel McInnis, a senior, was the team’s other sectional qualifier after a 12-win season at 145 pounds, a weight class he’ll return to.
“Both were varsity starters last season and have tons of experience,” Rabinovitz said.
Junior Tyler Cullinan will serve as one of the captains and bump up to the 170-pound weight class from 160, where he tallied 11 wins last season.
“Tyler surprised many as a wrestler last season with a deadly headlock that I know he will be using again this season,” Rabinovitz said.
Junior Matt Rock will provide the team with some much-needed depth due to his ability to compete at both 120 and 126 pounds. Senior captain Christian Schneider is back from a knee injury and will wrestle in the 195-pound weight class. A pair of freshmen in Joe Boss (106 pounds) and Jason Rapoza (182) will be looked upon to have an immediate impact.
“I look for this team to grow week after week so that we peak at the proper time, that being sectionals and then the state tournament,” Rabinovitz said.
The Panthers return to mat Saturday at Dec. 15 beginning at 9:30 a.m. for a super-quad meet in Marshfield.
“Dec. 19 at Silver Lake will be a real barn-burner, as we have split the last two seasons,” Rabinovitz said. “Jan. 30 should also be a big match with Duxbury as we surprised them last year at Duxbury.”