Graduation departures can be minimal in quantity yet severe in quality.
So despite losing just three starters from last season, the Ridgefield High wrestling team might struggle to match the postseason point totals it tallied in 2017-18.
“We had five hammers last year and we lost three of them,” said Gary Tiger, a co-coach along with his son, Travis. “Any team you lose some senior guys who had over 100 career wins it’s tough.”
Gone from last season’s team are Simon Preston (160 pounds), Jesse Walker (132) and Peter Murray (145). Preston won an FCIAC title and placed second in Class LL and fourth at the State Open; Walker was third at the conference championships; and Murray finished second at FCIACs.
But the Tigers do return two proven wrestlers in seniors Ben Smart and Lazar Agoev. Smart, who enters his fourth season as a starter, was third at 120 pounds in both the FCIAC and Class LL meets. Agoev, a newcomer last winter, missed the conference championship but then finished second (as the fifth seed) in the 152-pound weight class at the Class LL meet.
“Ben has shown over the years that he is one of the top wrestlers in the conference and the state, and Lazar came out of nowhere last season and is much improved this year,” said Tiger. “I think both of those guys are going to right there for postseason titles.”
Smart begins the season at 132 pounds but could drop down to 126. Agoev, meanwhile, has moved up one weight class to 160 pounds.
Joining them in the starting lineup are freshman Nate Blaha (106 pounds), sophomore Lexani Pagan (113), senior Jesse Chelednik (126), junior Phil Ferreira (145), sophomore Liam Keppler (170), sophomore Jackson Trotter (182), junior Stefan Sigurdsson (195), senior Sam Klotz (220), and freshman Cameron Smith (285).
Several other weight classes were undecided as of Monday morning. Either sophomore Spencer Carlson or freshman Lucas Ferreira will start at 120 pounds, with senior Eddie Saad, junior Cooper Rivera and freshman Donnie Williams battling at 138 pounds, and sophomores Connor Brown and Tiernan Deacy vying to start at 152 pounds.
Freshman Sam Bazarian (195) could become a starter when he returns from concussion protocol. Also looking to contribute are junior Gabe Saad (126) and freshman James Nightingale (220).
“The nice thing is that we have more wrestlers this season,” said Tiger. “We shouldn’t have to forfeit any weight classes, like we did the last couple of years.”
Notes: Freshman Alex Blaha will compete at 99 pounds for Ridgefield. That weight class is contested at several tournaments during the season but does not count toward team scores.
Ridgefield begins the 2018-19 season today with a home meet against Fairfield Warde.
The Tigers finished sixth at the FCIAC championship, seventh in Class LL, and 21st at the State Open last season.