The 2017-18 campaign served as a bridge year for the Whitman-Hanson Regional High wrestling team, which finished the winter at 7-13.
One season after boasting a core of six seniors – three of which competed in the Division 2 state tournament – the Panthers had an infusion of young talent this winter. Not only did they boast 10 freshmen and eight sophomores on their roster, but a significant number of them ended up playing large roles.
For starters, sophomore Steve Brooks (152 pounds) seized the most of his opportunity, racking up a team-leading 19 wins, after just three the year prior. Freshman Matt Butler (126) also took his opportunity by storm, ranking second on the team with 16 victories to conclude his inaugural campaign. Second-year Panthers wrestling head coach Gary Rabinovitz admitted he wasn’t expecting much out of either at the outset of the year.
“We really had two big surprises this season,” Rabinovitz said. “First is freshman Matt Butler. Matt placed in three tournaments this year. The second surprise is sophomore Steve Brooks, [who also] placed in three tournaments for us. Steve proved that offseason wrestling really works.”
Also, bursting onto the scene for W-H were freshmen Damari Goldsmith-Greene (132), Theo Kamperides (113) and Myles McInnis (106).
“We had a great group of freshmen this season and I am looking forward to many of them playing a big role in next year’s team,” Rabinovitz said. “These kids are the future of our program. With another class like these guys next year, we could be a force before too much longer. I really see us winning 75 percent of our dual meets next year, [but] time will tell.
While the youth movement was evident, the Panthers still received plenty of production out of their two senior captains – Ben Cordingley (138) and Steve Osborne (182). The two combined to win 28 matches and account for 154 of W-H’s points this season.
“Both Ben and Steve have been great leaders for our squad this year,” Rabinovitz said. “Ben was a four-year wrestler and was very consistent this year winning some big matches for us.
“Steve was a very vocal leader always putting the team ahead of himself and his leadership was very much appreciated. Steve was a three-year wrestler for us. Both Ben and Steve led by example throughout the season.”
For the Panthers as a team, they began the season at 4-5 after a 45-36 victory over Duxbury on Jan. 10, before dropping to 5-12 with one meet remaining. And in that final tri-meet Feb 3, the Panthers went 2-1 with wins over Norwood (46-36) and Everett (30-24) to cap the season off on the right note.
Rabinovitz said that despite the team falling a bit short of his expectation, which was at least 10 wins, he is looking for his players to remain driven.
“Offseason wrestling is a critical part of our growth as a wrestling program,” Rabinovitz said. “All of the kids are encouraged to participate in offseason wrestling or play another high school sport.”