Winter Sports Preview: Madison Wrestling Team
Dodgers head into season with high expectations.
Coming off of a season that culminated in a trip to the North 1, Group II finals in 2010, the Madison High School wrestling team is working hard for the chance to again see the finals—and this time take home a title.
The Dodgers, however, will have to overcome the loss of three of their top wrestlers from last season if a title is to be attained.
Ryan Colwell, a three-time District 9 champion and twice Region 3 champion; Christian Mazzocchi, last year's Region 3 runner-up and state quarter-finalist at 152 pounds, and Anthony Costa, third place in District 9 in 2010, all graduated. But while those three key losses may hurt, having 11 varsity lettermen return to the starting line-up this season certainly helps.
"Right now we have 11 solid returning starters so we're trying to spread them out and get them in 11 weight classes," head coach Steve Healey said. "I think we have a solid core coming back and we've got a couple of freshman and a couple of kids that were junior varsity last year that are going to fill some of those gaps."
Of the returning starters, three key members for 2011 are senior captains Mike Boardman (275), Ed Carr (171) and Jack Anzul (171/189).
Boardman, who finished third in District 9 at heavyweight last season, recently won a sectional title with the Madison football team and is looking to cap his senior season with one more championship.
"Hopefully it's as successful as the football season," Boardman said. "I'd like to get another state sectional title."
And Boardman is aware of the tough road that Madison will have to endure in order to achieve its goals.
"We're just going to try our hardest," he said. "We're practicing hard in the room, we're pushing each other. If you train with the best, you're going to beat the best."
Another key Dodger returning this season at 119 pounds is junior Patsy Davis. Davis, who wrapped up his sophomore campaign with a trip to the state tournament in Atlantic City, says that he will take a leadership role on this team to ensure success in 2011.
"I'm an upperclassman now, so I've been pushing the guys a lot harder," Davis explained. "We lost Mazzocchi and Colwell, that's 12 points every match right there, so now we've got to step it up."
Also returning is junior Eamon Epstein, a third-place finisher at 140 pounds in District 9 in 2010, along with Peter Willis, John Costa and Max Gotsch.
"We look good," Boardman said. "Our upper weights are predominantly seniors, so we should be good in the higher weights. The lower weights are young, but I think we have the talent to win."
Anzul agrees with his fellow captain.
"We've got a lot of guys who are a lot better than they were last year," he said. "People have been working a lot harder than they every have before and it's looking good."
The path to a title will be different than a season ago, as the team that Madison faced in February, Roselle Park, is no longer a section opponent.
While perennial contender Roselle won't be in the way, Madison will have the task of facing two very competitive teams instead in Caldwell and Boonton High School.
"I look at our section and Roselle Park isn't in it this year," Healey said. "We obviously lost to them in the sectional final last year. But Caldwell, who is very tough, is in it and Boonton, who is very tough, is in it. I think it's a three-horse race with those two teams and ourselves."
That mentality seems to have spread throughout the wrestling room as the Dodgers are entering this season with an optimistic outlook.
"It would be nice to win it this year," Carr said. "We've got Boonton and Caldwell, which is going to be tough, but I think that we're a little bit better than them."
While Madison is confident, team leaders know that success will hinge on everyone's ability to do whatever they can to help the team.
"Guys have to do whatever their role is," Davis said. "Go out there and win, keep it close, they can't get pinned, whatever their role is they've got to go out there and there and just show heart."
Madison opens its season Saturday at the Mount Olive Tournament at Mount Olive High School.