It’s not often that the Westhampton Beach wrestling team plays the role of underdog, but that’s where it finds itself this season, and that’s just fine with longtime head coach Paul Bass.
With Bass seated at the edge of the mat, the Hurricanes have built a tradition as one of the toughest programs in Suffolk County, compiling a 111-59 dual meet record over the last 13 seasons, with only one losing season during that stretch. Westhampton Beach is also one of just four teams in the county that have had at least two All-County wrestlers in every season since 2000 and has sent three different wrestlers to the state tournament during the last three years.
But after losing eight senior starters to graduation, other teams are predicting that the Canes will have a down year. That line of thinking, Bass says, could benefit his young squad.
“This will be a real test for our program,” he said. “We’ve accomplished a lot, but I’m really excited because most people are going to count us out after losing eight seniors. I like being the underdog. I have the best staff in the world and I really like the work ethic and attitude of these kids. They’re a really hard-nosed group and I like that. They’re very physical; they have no fear.”
Bass said that during the first day of practice, he wrote down several of the impressive stats that the program has acquired over the last few seasons on the whiteboard outside his office to serve as a reminder of the tradition the team is expected to continue.
“I’m proud of that stuff,” he said. “I told them, ‘What are we going to do about this?’”
While it will take a full effort from the entire team to keep the tradition going strong, several key returnees from last year’s team—which finished third in League VI with a 5-2 record—will be expected to lead the team.
Juniors Pete DeTore and Cory Hubbard and senior Brian Lagoumis are the captains and are poised to have successful individual seasons. DeTore is a two-time All-County wrestler who competed in the 103-pound division last year but is expected to move up to 112 pounds this season. Bass is expecting big things from DeTore, who showed his commitment to the program by wrestling in 63 matches during the offseason. In an offseason tournament, DeTore won the state junior title in freestyle wrestling and was also the state junior champion in Greco-Roman wrestling.
DeTore placed sixth at the county meet last year and was third as a freshman, but Bass believes that his offseason training should make a huge difference this time around.
“He had an awesome offseason,” Bass said. “He’s really highly motivated and he’s working very, very hard, which is the reason why I made him a captain.”
Bass said that the competition in the lower weight ranges—from 103 to 125 pounds—is “loaded” but said he expects DeTore to be right in the thick of things when the postseason rolls around.
“There’s nobody in the state that he can’t be,” Bass said. “Along with a lot of other kids, he has the ability.”
DeTore’s classmate, Cory Hubbard, will also be seeking a berth in the state tournament and returns as a three-time county qualifier. Hubbard wrestled at 119 pounds last year and will either stay at that weight or move up to 125 pounds. Bass is expecting big things from Hubbard as well.
“Cory has been on the cusp of placing at counties for the last two years,” Bass said. “His ultimate goal is to get on that podium at Stony Brook.”
Bass said that Hubbard’s overall athleticism and desire to compete give him an edge over most of his opponents.
“There are certain kids that are winners in whatever they do and Cory is one of those kids,” he said. “He’s just a winner and he makes everyone else better. The bigger the match, the better he wrestles.”
Lagoumis, one of only two seniors on the team, was a part time starter last year at 125 pounds but will see a significant increase in his role on the team. Bass is expecting him to move into the 135 or 140-pound weight class and make a name for himself in his final season.
“He’s shown from the beginning of the year and the offseason that’s he’s really taken a leadership role,” Bass said. “I think he can be one of the best in the league if he starts to believe in himself. He could place at counties.”
Sophomores Conner and Zach Bass should also have a big role on the varsity this year at the lower weights. Conner Bass was the League VI champion and was fourth in the county in the 96-pound weight class last year and will move up to 103 pounds. Zach Bass will wrestle at 119 pounds and last season, he was tested by three state placewinners who were in his weight class in his league. He still managed to finish the season with 20 wins.
The Bass brothers, along with DeTore, spent tons of time on the mat in the offseason. Conner Bass placed second in the state offseason tournament in freestyle wrestling in the cadet division while Zach Bass placed fourth in the cadet division in Greco-Roman wrestling. Both Zach and Conner Bass, DeTore and Lagoumis all wrestling in more than 50 matches during the offseason, which impressed Bass.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had any kids wrestle more than 50 matches in the offseason,” he said.
Several other wrestlers are returning to the team and should have an impact as well. Sophomore Tim Daley was fourth in the league last year at 96 pounds, while junior Brian Kobus had 25 wins last year and will compete at 160 pounds this season. Sophomore Matt Mazarakis was a part-time starter last year and has success and will compete at either 160 or 171 pounds this season.
“He has so much talent,” Bass said of Mazarakis. “He’s going to have to step it up this year too.”
Junior Danny Maddock, another part-time starter from last year, will wrestle at either 130 or 135 pounds while junior Russell Skinder, who was injured last season, will also give the Canes depth at the 125/130 divisions. Senior Ryan Marin, who has been a part-time starter during the past two years, will help out the Canes in the 145-pound weight class. Junior Scott Carey, who also saw a lot of time on the mat during the offseason, will wrestle at 145 or 152 pounds.
“He has a world of talent too,” Bass said of Carey.
Junior Brian Higgins made his mark last season when he filled in for an injured Kyle Hubbard during a stretch of the season. He’ll certify at either 140 or 145 pounds this year.
“He’s a real hard-nosed kid,” Bass said.
Bass is also expecting contributions from junior Marco Pizzo (160 pounds) who is up from the junior varsity and sophomore Brian Moore, who at 190 pounds is the biggest kid on the team and will wrestle at the higher weight classes, where the Canes are lacking depth.
“He’s getting better drastically, but he’s still growing into his body a bit,” Bass said.
Juniors Ryan Vasso (130), Griffin Stevens (152), Mike Purpura (119) and Greg Lettieri (145) and sophomores Ronan Seltenrich (96/103) and Andy Capuano (96) will also be expected to contribute to the team this season. Junior Bobby Garone was out with an injury last year but should also help the Canes at the higher weights.
Bass said he’s expecting the competition in League VI to be tough as usual, with last year’s undefeated regular season champion Elwood/John Glenn (7-0) expected to be formidable as well as Mt. Sinai (6-1) and Amityville (4-3).
The Hurricanes will compete in the Sprig Gardner Tournament at East Hampton on Saturday, December 13, and will compete in a double dual meet with Smithtown West and Connetquot at Connetquot on Friday, December 19.