With a strong core returning this season, the Eastport South Manor wrestling team is primed to continue its most recent success, which includes three state place-winners in the past two years.
Last season, Travis Passaro and Johnny Busiello both placed third in their respective weight classes at the New York State Division I Championships in Albany, a year after Maverick Passaro became the program’s first state champion. Travis Passaro, now a senior, will be looking to match his brother as a state champ this season.
Busiello, meanwhile, has transferred to Wyoming Seminary, a prep school located in Kingston, Pennsylvania, that is nationally known for its wrestling program. ESM head coach Nick Garone said it was tough losing a wrestler of Busiello’s caliber—he thought he could have had one of the top teams in Suffolk County had Busiello stayed at ESM—but Garone said he remains excited about what he has coming back this season.
Joining Travis Passaro as captain this season will be senior Jimmy Leach, who reached the Suffolk County finals last season, where he lost to Hauppauge’s Mark West, who went on to be named the tournament’s most outstanding wrestler and champion of champions.
Both Leach (138 pounds) and Passaro (126) were pre-ranked at the top of their respective weight classes coming into this season.
“They are the anchors on the team,” Coach Garone. “They’re both working hard in the room, and it’s amazing to see, with the accolades they’ve already gotten, how hard they’re working.
“Travis finished third in the state, and I really think Jimmy could have gotten up there,” he continued. “That might have been a blessing for Jimmy that he didn’t get a chance to go up there, because he’s so focused now. All he’s thinking about is winning a state title. There’s a good chance that Jimmy and Travis could give this school a couple of state champs this year.”
Also returning to the team this season are seniors Dylan Kane and Joe Zarcone, juniors Sean Carey and Patrick Minogue, sophomore Nicky Garone (the coach’s nephew), and freshman Joey Busiello. Minogue is returning to the team after a gruesome leg injury forced him to miss a year and a half on the mats. Coach Garone said he’s back at full strength now, as evident during his successful football season this past fall.
Kane and Zarcone are expected to take a leap forward this season. Zarcone is coming off an All-Division football season and won 20 matches last year as a junior, while Kane is pre-ranked fifth in the county at 160 pounds.
“Joe is a lot more mentally prepared to wrestle this year,” Coach Garone said of Zarcone. “His confidence is very high, and he believes now that he’s supposed to win, whereas last year he just wanted to win. He was content on losing close matches last year.
“Dylan is a senior now too, and he’s ranked in the county,” he added. “His work ethic is just incredible.”
Last season didn’t end so well for Nicky Garone. After going 35-8 during the season and placing second at the League V Championships, Garone made an early exit at counties. He’s grown quite a bit though during the offseason—he’s jumped multiple weight classes, from 106 to 132—and appears ready for a bounce-back season.
“Last season was devastating for him, but to put it in perspective, he’s got three more years to do something,” Coach Garone said. “And he’s got a great battery of teammates around his weight, wrestling between Travis and Jimmy.”
The new addition to the team this season is seventh-grader Adam Busiello, the youngest brother of Johnny and Joey. Adam is young but has a wealth of experience at the national level, having won just about every top tournament in the country for his age group, including the Super 32 Championships, which he has won twice. He is not the first middle school wrestler to reach varsity at ESM: Travis Passaro was on the team as a seventh-grader, and both Maverick Passaro and Jimmy Leach were on the team as eighth-graders.
“What I really like about Adam is, even with all of his accolades, he works like he has something to prove, and he’s very coachable,” Coach Garone said. “Wrestlers who have had a lot of success at his young age, what happens is, they think they know everything and they can’t handle losing, so they burn out and don’t go to that next level.
“But Adam is wrestling every day,” he continued. “He’s tweaking and refining himself every day, and he’s still motivated. He’s got a lot to prove at this level, and I don’t want to put any undue pressure on him, but I really do think he’s got a great opportunity to be an incredible wrestler, not only at ESM but in New York State.”
Another addition to the team comes in the coaching ranks. Mike Patrovich, who is known throughout Long Island as a club coach with 631Elite, will be joining Coach Garone in the room. Both Garone and Patrovich were NCAA Division I All-Americans—Garone at Old Dominion and Patrovich at Hofstra. Patrovich moved into the district this past summer, so Garone used the opportunity to bring the highly touted coach to the team.
“It’s hard to call him an assistant coach. He’s more of an associate head coach, because I have so much respect for him,” Garone said. “He’s so technically sound and runs a great practice. It’s just a blessing for the program and a blessing for the kids, and we’re really excited to have him.”
After competing in a number of tournaments this month, the Sharks will get started with their League V schedule in January. League V is consistently one of the more competitive leagues in the county, and that should remain true this season. Islip and Rocky Point are returning tough teams, while Huntington, Kings Park and Bellport usually have competitive squads as well. Comsewogue and Harborfields are also in League V.
ESM will compete in its first tournament on Saturday, December 14, at the Take Down Autism Dual Tournament at William Floyd High School. The Sharks will also compete at the Center Moriches Duals on December 21 and the Sachem North Duals on December 27. ESM’s first league match isn’t until Friday, January 3, when it hosts Harborfields at 4 p.m.