Today marks the beginning of the portion of the high school wrestling season that matters most, and Absegami High School junior Will Sanz has been doing his best to prepare for the next few weeks.
The 195-pounder will wrestle for just the fourth time when Absegami plays host to the District 32 wrestling tournament tonight, Feb. 22, and continues Saturday, Feb. 23. For personal reasons, Sanz didn’t wrestle for most of the season.
Since his return, Sanz has one forfeit victory, and is 2-1 in live matches.
Tonight is the night when it all starts to matter most.
“I’ve been working hard with my coaches, trying my best to get back in shape,” Sanz said. “I’ve been working on my mental toughness and my physical shape. I’m eight weeks behind everyone else.”
Sanz competed at 195 last year, but was bumped up to 220 pounds at the district tournament. As a result, he received a low seed, and lost his second match to the No. 1 seed. This year, he’ll be competing at his natural weight, and despite missing time, he still has lofty goals.
“I accomplished my goal last year,” Sanz said. “I want to go to the finals this year.”
In an attempt to get into the best shape possible, Sanz has been working with the wrestlers on his team that compete in the heavier weights, including 220 pounds.
Sanz has had to work hard his entire career. He didn’t begin wrestling until he was a freshman.
“I played football, and (coach Shawn Scannell) was my running backs coach and my History teacher,” Sanz said. “He told me ‘you’re wrestling.’ I didn’t have a choice.”
Sanz ended up loving the sport.
“I didn’t even know how to shoot, and now I’m in the varsity lineup. I’ve learned a lot. I have a great coach.”
Sanz’s goals match those of the other wrestlers in the lineup. As a team, the Braves were 7-21 this season, but wrestling is one of the few sports that offers an individual element. Over the course of the next three weeks, each wrestler has a chance to shine.
On Thursday, coach Galloway Patch posted a video of coach Shawn Scannell talking about his wrestlers’ chances.
“Obviously, this is what we work all year for,” Scannell said as part of that interview. “Our goals have some expectations and some goals that we set forth early in the year to perform well, to win district titles. If not, advance. That’s what we keep stressing. You have to advance to the next tournament.”
The top three finishers in each of the 14 weight classes advance to the regional tournament. The top three finishers next week all advance to the state tournament in two weeks in Atlantic City.
“We have some talented kids who are going to go a lot further than most people expect,” Sanz said. “This is where it counts.”