Unlike some first-year coaches, Brian Hayes doesn’t have to worry about rebuilding.
With most of last season’s starters returning, Hayes can count on a fairly stable lineup in his debut as head coach of the Ridgefield High wrestling team.
“We have experienced guys,” said Hayes, who takes over for Gary Tiger (an assistant coach this winter). “And they are good, talented, experienced guys.”
Forfeits plagued the Tigers in dual meets last year, but the team should be able to fill most weight classes this season.
“The only question marks are in the heavier weight divisions, which is usually a problem for Ridgefield,” said Hayes. “But it won’t be as big a problem as last season.”
Ridgefield’s returnees include seniors John Pavain (138 pounds) and Victor Fernandez (160) and junior Matt Philbin (126). Those three will serve as the team’s captains.
Philbin had an impressive 2011-12 season, placing third at FCIACs, fourth in Class LL, and fifth at the State Open in the 120-pound division. Fernandez was fifth at 160 pounds in the FCIAC championship, while Pavain is back after being limited by injury last winter.
“Those three bring a good work ethic,” said Hayes about the tri-captains. “They set a good example in practice for the younger guys.”
Another returnee is sophomore Kevin Side, who was fourth at FCIACs and fifth in Class LL at 106 pounds last season as a freshman. Side will wrestle at 120 pounds this year.
Also back are junior Colin Maher (113 pounds), junior Jack Boscia (132), sophomore Joe Coyle (145), sophomore Tyler Hamilton (152) and junior Nate Pfohl (170 or 182).
Newcomer Connor Rowe, a senior better known as the starting quarterback for the RHS football team, could also make a difference.
“He’s a beast,” said Hayes about Rowe, who will compete at either 182 or 195 pounds. “He’s a little raw in terms of technique, but he’s such a natural athlete that I think he will do OK.”
Freshman Colin Donnelly is the season-opening starter at 106 pounds, while classmate Kyle McCormick will be at 170 pounds. Sophomore Brendan Moriarty could give the Tigers a competitor at 220 pounds.
Ridgefield’s top reserves include junior Chris Savoca at 113 pounds, freshman Colin Storm at 120 pounds, sophomore Nick Smart at 126 pounds, and senior John Dumke and sophomore Alex Shilstone at 132 pounds.
“The varsity lineup is interchangeable,” said Hayes. “We have wrestle-offs throughout the season, so guys can move into the lineup if they beat the person ahead of them.”
Hayes said the lower weights will be pivotal to Ridgefield’s success.
“We should be very strong from 106 through 138 (pounds),” he said. “We should be able to generate a lot of points in those divisions.”
Notes: Ridgefield was ninth at FCIACs, 18th in Class LL and 48th at the State Open last season.
The Tigers’ biggest graduation loss was Joe Voves, who finished third at 126 pounds at the FCIAC championship.