The Westhampton Beach wrestling program hasn’t experienced a losing season in 18 years, and according to longtime head coach Paul Bass, many opposing coaches around Suffolk County think that impressive streak will come to an end this season.
That’s OK with him. More than OK, in fact.
“We haven’t had a losing season in 18 years and I think a lot of people are expecting that,” he said last week of his team, which lost 12 of its 15 starters to graduation and returns only three full-time starters out of 15 weight classes. “There are eight teams we wrestle every year that never beat us, and they’re all licking their chops. But I like it like that.”
During his multiple-decade tenure on the mat sidelines, Bass has seen talented wrestlers come and go, but his team’s position as one of the most competitive on Long Island has remained the same. The Hurricanes are the only squad in Suffolk to have a state qualifier in the last eight years, and they have a 161-65 dual meet record over the last 15 seasons.
Bass admits that his team has plenty of holes to fill after graduating a talented senior class. But he pointed to great numbers—the team boasts 46 kids this season—as an indicator that the program is as strong as ever, and said he sees a lot of promise, particularly from the youngest members.
“We’re going to be very young down below [in the lower weight classes], but we have young, talented kids,” he said. “We’re not hurting for bodies. The question is going to be are kids who haven’t been starting going to be able to step up now.”
A quartet of seniors will be asked to provide leadership both on the mats and in the locker room, three of whom were full-time starters last year. Kyle Maddock was third in League VI at 120 pounds last year and will likely move up to 126 pounds this season, while Jake Martin is the defending league champ at 220 pounds and will stay there this year. Ryan Osborne was third in the league at 140 pounds and will likely move up to 145. Aidan Kravitz, who competed at 160 pounds last year and started in several matches, is another strong returnee and should remain in the same weight class.
Bass said all four wrestlers have the talent to battle the elite in the county, but will have to step up and prove it.
“They’ve got to believe in themselves, they really do,” he said. “They know enough wrestling, they’ve been around long enough, that they can do whatever they put their minds to.”
Westhampton Beach returns two other seniors in 152-pounder Trevor Booth and 120/126-pounder Esteban Garcia, both of whom saw plenty of time on the mats last year. Senior Jesse Mistretta joins the team for the first time this year and will wrestle at 285 pounds, while senior Tahsin Korur (182/195) is back on the team after a two-year hiatus from wrestling.
The Hurricanes got a boost in the middle weights with the addition of junior Hunter Hulse, who transferred from the Stony Brook School. Hulse was a Division II county champ last year and will wrestle at 138 pounds this season.
“He’s an extremely talented kid, and I think it’s going to help him a lot being around Maddock and Osborne, working out with those kids every day,” Bass said.
Rounding out the junior class are Justin Kretsos (132/138), Oliver Batcheller (145/152), Kevin Zambik (182/195) and Alex Camacho (182/195).
Bass is excited about what he calls a very talented sophomore class. Matt Tanzman and Connor Glynn will compete at 99 pounds, while Sean Ebrus (126/132), Alex Kravitz (152), Dan McClure (160/170) and Dylan Gilks (220) will all battle for time.
The freshman class includes Dane Mendoza (99), Casey Hughes (106), Danny Purkis (106), Sal DiBenedetto (285) and Danny Strebel, the latter of whom started a few matches at 106 pounds last year and will wrestle at 113 or 120 pounds this season. Seventh-grader Liam McIntyre (113) also joins the team.
There are newcomers for the Hurricanes on the sidelines as well. Bass will be assisted in coaching duties by James Kinder, Kevin Turbush, Pete DeTore and middle school coach Ethan Mitchell.
Bass expects the competition to be fierce, as usual, in League VI, with Elwood/John Glenn and Shoreham/Wading River likely battling for the title. Mount Sinai and Sayville should be strong as well, while Miller Place returns its entire team and Amityville is much-improved, according to Bass. Sayville moved into League VI from League V last year, swapping spots with Rocky Point. East Hampton rounds out League VI.
Westhampton Beach will open the season at the Sprig Gardner Tournament at East Hampton on Saturday, December 14, and will compete in the Center Moriches Duals on December 21 and 22. The Hurricanes will compete in the Half Hollow Hills East Tournament on December 27 and 28 before opening the League VI season at Mount Sinai on January 3.