The wrestling team finished with a 7-20 mark, but was white-hot in the homestretch.
Whitman-Hanson Regional High wrestling coach Gary Rabinovitz is coining the 2018-19 season a success.
For the Panthers, who finished the year with wins in four of seven matches, despite their 7-20 mark, they made progress. They sent three wrestlers to state tournaments, as opposed to zero last season, had a sectional finalist and their first tournament champion in two years.
Sophomore Damari Goldsmith-Greene (138 pounds) was a standout for W-H all season long, collecting a team-high 29 wins, placing in four tournaments and finishing seventh at states.
“Damari is a very coachable student-athlete and gives it 100 percent every day in both practice and matches,” Rabinovitz said. “He is a class act and has not even come close to reaching his potential as of yet. I like to say when a wrestler really gets it that he flicks the switch. Damari has certainly flicked the switch and this happened at the sectional tournament. Going forward he will not look back.”
Rabinovitz credited junior captain Steve Brooks (152), who missed 17 matches, with providing the Panthers with their first high point of the season with a win at the Weymouth Tournament on Jan. 12.
“Steve does a great deal of offseason wrestling and I believe that is the key to his continued success,” Rabinvotiz said. “Steve is in the same zone as Damari, he too believes he can win every match that he competes in.”
Junior Bethany Ralph provided the Panthers with another high point, finishing second in the first-ever girls’ wrestling state championship.
“For the past three years Bethany Ralph has been a model of consistency for our team,” Rabinovitz said. “She is one of the hardest workers on our team day in and day out, giving 110 percent every single day. She took a big lead this season and I look forward to her senior leadership next season. Bethany has proven that hard work does pay off.”
Freshmen Jason Rapoza (13 wins at 182) and Rocco Ruffini (10 wins at 220) gave the Panthers a quick glimpse into the future. Junior captain Tyler Cullinan boasted 19 wins, 12 of which came by pinfall, at 160 pounds.
Rabinovitz said togetherness was his team’s strength.
“The team support, especially at the end of a long season when only two wrestlers are left competing was impressive,” Rabinovitz said. “Nearly half the team showed up to practice over the final two weeks to support both Damari and Bethany.”
Sophomore Matt Butler, who was second on the team last season with 16 wins, was held to just 7 matches, in which he was 6-1 in, due to injury.
As for the future, the Panthers will return 12 of 16 tournament place winners and Rabinovitz said he has high optimism for the 2019-20 season already.
“We have several really competitive eighth graders that we have been waiting for and they will finally arrive for next season,” Rabinovitz said. “We are losing only three seniors and two were starters. Time will tell, but offseason wrestling is the key for next season.”