Weekly Feature



2017-12-07 / Sports

Lack of Holland grapplers returns EA to solo entity status

by JASON NADOLINSKI
Reporter


East Aurora’s Alex Skowronski tries to break free from an opponent’s grasp during a 120-pound match that took part in this weekend’s St. Francis Duals Tournament. Skowronski finished the tournament with a 7-1 record, but as a team, the Blue Devils went 2-6. 
Photo by John NormilePurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com East Aurora’s Alex Skowronski tries to break free from an opponent’s grasp during a 120-pound match that took part in this weekend’s St. Francis Duals Tournament. Skowronski finished the tournament with a 7-1 record, but as a team, the Blue Devils went 2-6. Photo by John NormilePurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com The merger between East Aurora and Holland has been temporarily disbanded where the wrestling program is concerned, coach Jeff Michel said, leaving the Blue Devils to fend for themselves on the mats this winter.

With eight members of last year’s squad not back this season — including seven who did not graduate but did not return to the team for various reasons — it will be incumbent for the remaining veteran Blue Devil grapplers to step up their performance and help bring along the younger team members as East Aurora pursues a higher finish than last year’s sixth-place effort in the standings.

“We actually have a good combination of experience and leadership on the roster this year, as well as a lot of good young wrestlers who had successful seasons on modified last year,” Michel said. “It will be a steep learning curve for the freshmen and other rookies who make up more than half of our squad this year, but I am certain they are capable of achieving success. All of our wrestlers are fit and will work hard right up until the last whistle. They have a never-say-die attitude that will win them close matches for sure.”

Leading the way among the veteran grapplers Michel will be looking to as an example for the squad’s younger competitors will be returning captains Johnny Putney and Ethan Hall, along with first-time senior captains Zack Parisien and Carlton Aures. Putney, a junior, finished his state-qualifying sophomore season with more than 40 wins and has gotten off to another hot start this winter, recording eight pins and a technical fall in going 9-0 to date.

Hall, meanwhile, is looking forward to a strong senior campaign after missing last season due to shoulder surgery. He hasn’t actually wrestled yet, as of press time, due to the success of the cross-country team this fall, as well as the application process he’s been involved in for the Naval Academy.

Aures and Parisien are both looking to go out with a bang in their final season of eligibility, with Parisien moving down a weight class. Aures, meanwhile, is hoping for a more consistent effort after Michel said he was “up and down” last winter.

Returning sophomores Alex Skowronski, Christian Gravino and Zack Passmore are also looking to do well this year. Skowronski placed at both the Class and Section VI Championships last year and currently holds an 8-1 record, including a victory over a sectional champion from last winter. Gravino “looks much improved” after taking part in offseason wrestling efforts, Michel said, while Passmore “is quickly becoming the best leg rider on the team” and is seeing his martial arts background “transitioning well” to the mat.

Newcomers looking to do well at the varsity level this season include freshmen Joplin Hess, Chris Arriaga, Braden Prusak, Carter Struebing, Jonah Dojnik, Dylan Farr, Cullen Mc- Dade, Will Lehsten, Tristan Neamon and Albert Peterman, along with senior Alex Green and junior Mateusz Jasinski.

Hess prepared for the varsity campaign by competing in multiple offseason tournaments, while Arriaga, Prusak and Struebing have already contributed to the team’s success during the early stages of the campaign. Dojnik, Farr and McDade have handled the transition to wrestling at the upper weight classes of the varsity level well, with Mc- Dade and Dojnik already showing significant growth over the weekend, according to Michel.

Lehsten “has shown a lot of determination,” Michel said, and “is a fighter who looks to compete for a spot with some more work,” while Neamon and Peterman are “still new to wrestling and need to learn more, but they both show a lot of heart and an eagerness to learn.”

Green, who is new to the sport, “is excited to be on the team and is learning a lot,” but Michel said “the biggest surprise of the season, so far, is Mateusz.”

“Although Mateusz has never played organized sports before, let alone wrestling, he has come a long way in one month,” Michel said. “He is enthusiastic, hard-working and is a tough competitor. He earned two pins this past weekend at St. Francis and inspires the team with his effort.”

East Aurora, which dropped its league opener to Pioneer on Nov. 29, did record a couple of wins in its eight dual matches at this past weekend’s St. Francis Tournament. Skowronwski, who beat last year’s sectional champ in the Pioneer match, went 7-1 at St. Francis, while Putney went undefeated.

“Unfortunately, we are giving up four or five forfeits a match, so success in terms of winning duals will be limited for us this year,” Michel said. “We hope to get back three more wrestlers this week to shore up our lineup, with Ethan returning from cross-country nationals, Dylan Farr returning from illness, and Christian Gravino coming back from injury.”

East Aurora returned to action Wednesday at Springville, but information about that match — including whether or not the weather even allowed for it to be held — was not available at press time. The Blue Devils close out their week, weather permitting, by taking part in the Depew/ Cleveland Hill Wildcats Duals Tournament on Saturday.

“We just want to be competitive in every match we wrestle while keeping everyone safe and healthy,” Michel said. “I predict a lot of close matches on the mat this year, with a lot of success individually and a lot of bright potential for the years ahead. I’m just so fortunate to have a knowledgeable assistant staff with Mark Hall and Nick Hess.”

email: jnadolinski@beenews.com

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