With its new campaign approaching, Whitman-Hanson Regional High wrestling team is expecting a lively season on the mat as it nears a major milestone.
After serving as an assistant coach to Dr. Kevin Broderick for the past two seasons, Gary Rabinovitz has taken over the reins of the wrestling squad.
Rabinovitz is no stranger to W-H, having also served as an assistant to Bob Gray back in 1988-89, as well as participating on the first ever Panther wrestling squad in 1977-78.
The 1990 Whitman-Hanson Hall of Fame inductee said the camaraderie within the team has been exceptional out of the gate and feels it will work in its favor this winter.
“Wrestling is like family,” Rabinovitz said. “One of our biggest strengths is helping each other to get better every day.”
Leading the charge at either the 106- or 113-pound class will be one of the Panthers’ key returnees from a year ago, co-captain Jake Filicicchia.
“Jake had an outstanding year in 2015-16 and continued all offseason, wrestling and preparing for a great senior year,” Rabinovitz said. “Jake is truly committed to be the best he can be and works hard at getting better every day.”
Senior John Will joins Filicicchia as a co-captain this year and will anchor the 220-pound weight class.
“John had an impressive junior season, winning a majority of his matches by pinfall,” Rabinovitz said.
Rabinovitz also expects contributions from seniors Josh Baker (145 pounds), Alex O’Roak (182) and Kevin Smith (145).
Rabinovitz said he credits the Whitman-Hanson youth program for helping develop numerous wrestlers, including freshman Steven Brooks (138) and Matt Rock (120) and sophomore Joel McInnis (132-138), who he feels will provide key contributions down the road on his club.
“We look to these young men to play important roles this season,” Rabinovitz said.
Junior Steve Osborne (160-170), who took a year off from the mat last season, was the recipient of captain of the week, a newly installed crown to entice additional leadership within the program.
“I am looking for great things from Steve this season,” Rabinovitz said.
Also, catching the eye of the first-year Panther head coach thus far has been junior Logan Scriven (152-160).
“[He] seems to be coming into his own,” Rabinovitz said. “Logan competes hard day in and day out and I look for great things to come from him.”
With wrestling being one of the more unique sports, relying on individual and team performance, Rabinovitz said he is looking forward to two big dates on his club’s docket of contests.
On Wednesday, Dec. 14, W-H will be unveiling its brand-new state champions banner before its meet against Quincy. The wrestling squad has produced eight individual state champions, who have been invited back for this event.
The Panthers will compete in a quad home meet Saturday, Jan. 21 and celebrate with hopefully all their past state champions, four of whom live out of state, over the past near four decades of W-H wrestling. Rabinovitz said hopes all former Panther wrestlers attend.
One key number to focus on is 500. The Panthers sit at 498 career victories as the season approaches.
W-H opens its schedule Saturday, Dec. 10 at North Attleboro against East Providence and Pathfinder.
“We are a very young team with several empty weight classes so I look to be competitive in every match we wrestle,” Rabinovitz said.