Absegami High School senior Jack Willette was two points away from advancing to the state wrestling tournament in Atlantic City last year, and Braves coach Shawn Scannell believes he can finish the job this year.
Willette will begin the season wrestling at 152 pounds, and will wrestle at either that weight or 145 for the duration of the season, which begins Saturday, Dec. 15, for Absegami. The Braves will compete in a season-opening tournament at Southern Regional High School.
Willette is one of five seniors on the team, along with David Blake, Alvin Mears, Kevin Vasquez and Tiger Kirvay.
The junior class consists of eight wrestlers, highlighted by heavyweight Roman Rudisill. In all, there are 24 freshmen and sophomores on the team.
“It’s a young group, but it’s a good group,” Scannell said. “Our young guys are going to have to get good quick. We’re going to learn a lot about ourselves at Southern this weekend, and then we have a tough Williamstown team on Monday night.”
Some of the younger wrestlers the Braves will rely on are sophomores Chris D’Alfonso and Chris Harvey, and freshmen Yanni Patsaros and Ryan Martin. Scannell said they all have experience wrestling on their own and in clubs.
“They wrestle year round,” Scannell said. “We have a tough schedule. We’re going to have to get better as the season goes on. I’m not worried about records, I’m just worried about the end of the season.”
Scannell emphasized a need to be “battle-tested” going into the tournament portion of the season. A wrestler with a good record doesn’t always fare as well as a wrestler that has seen tough competition night after night.
In addition to its conference schedule, Absegami will visit Council Rock North for a tournament this year, and will face Cherry Hill West, Collingswood and Burlington Township.
As a team last year, Absegami was 9-15 and fell to Toms River East in the first round of the playoffs.