WHS has strong, returning group
As the Whitehall wrestling team readies to hit the mat this season, they’ll be relying on a strong group of returning wrestlers who should help make 2021 another successful season.
They enter the season with 10 wrestlers with varsity experience, giving them a strong foundation as they kickoff the new campaign Jan. 13 against Nazareth. That experience runs through their lightweights, middleweights and upper weights, giving them strength up and down their lineup.
The Zephyrs finished last season 11-6, and with an abbreviated schedule this season, they’ll only wrestle a little over a third of that total this year. Still, they’ll be able to look forward to a postseason as well, albeit with new rules set in place limiting the number of wrestlers competing for a chance to go to Hershey.
At the close of last season, head coach Tim Cunningham said that while they had a successful year, they still have a lot of work ahead of them to move the program in a positive direction.
He’ll be looking for those returning varsity members to take charge of taking them on that path, and that includes assuming leadership.
“Yes, we are returning a good group of wrestlers from last year,” said Cunningham. “We are looking for a few of the guys to take on leadership roles.”
Junior Xavier Arner qualified for the Northeast Regional AAA tournament last year, and with another year under his belt, he’ll be someone who will make a positive impact by the example he sets. He believed his appearance at last year’s Regional tourney served as a pathway to his teammates, and would help change the culture of Whitehall wrestling.
Arner finished last season with 30 wins, and will lead a strong contingent of Zephyrs who could make a deep run into the postseason.
That list also includes Johnny Colon who was on the cusp of a regional berth last season at 120 lbs., losing his 5-6 match at the D-11 tourney. The senior lost 5-2 to Liberty’s Ansar Niazi in that consolation bout. He’ll be another Zephyr wrestler who should ascend this season.
They also return junior Tyler Cunningham who had a 20+ win season last year and will be another vital link to the success of their program. Cunningham, along with Colon and Arner, were a strong force among their lightweights, wrestling back-to-back-to-back last season, Colon at 120, Cunningham at 126 and Arner at 132. It should be similar this season.
Another veteran returnee is junior Michael Hernandez who won two bouts at last year’s district tournament at 182, giving them a strong presence in the upper weights again this season.
They’ll also see the return of sophomores Hudson Saylor, Nate Mendez and Melquan Warren, all of whom had strong freshman campaigns last season.
Senior Zachary Beblavy is yet another returning varsity wrestler, and he should be a slid contribute among their middleweights.
Josef Grol is back as well. The sophomore will help anchor the upper weights along with Warren and Hernandez.
Chanceler Romain, a sophomore is still another returning wrestler who will help them with experience in their dual meets.
Missing from that list of returning wrestlers is Aiden Toussaint. The senior was a big part of their program since he stepped onto the mat as a freshman in 2017. His life was cut short this past summer when he was fatally shot in Bethlehem, leaving a team to grapple with their loss and a community to grieve.
The Zephyrs will also feature seniors George Moussa and Timothy Ritter, junior Cristian Oliveri, sophomore Luke Thomas, and freshmen Damond Pascoe, Seth Pascoe, and Nicholas Rudowski.
The Zephyrs will only wrestle a little over a third of that total this year. It’s simply the environment they face this season.
“This season will be challenging due to the pandemic but we need to be thankful for any opportunities we have to compete this season,” said Cunningham. “The guys need to understand that every match they have this season can be their last match so take advantage of the opportunity to wrestle.”
Cunningham said that there’s a possibility they will add some matches to their schedule, but nothing has been finalized as of yet.
As they ramp up to their first meet against the Blue Eagles, Cunningham said that they’ll emphasize the fundamentals and doing what it takes to compete at a high level.
“We are hoping to continue to work on the little things that make major differences in the outcome of matches,” said Cunningham. “We only have a couple seniors this season so we definitely need to get leadership from some of the younger guys. the guys are looking forward to competing and making improvements every time they compete.”