The Eastport South Manor wrestling team had been improving the past three seasons and reached the pinnacle of its success last season by placing third at the New York State Championships in Albany. Travis Passaro became the most successful wrestler in program history by winning a state title to go along with his second county championship and won more than 200 matches in his career, while Adam Busiello tied the best placement ever (second) by a seventh-grade Suffolk County wrestler at states.
Passaro has since graduated, though, and is now wrestling at Hofstra University, with his older brother and fellow ESM grad Maverick. Jimmy Leach, who also won a county title last season, also graduated, as did Joe Zarcone, last year’s League V Champion at 285 pounds, and Dylan Kane, who placed second at leagues. While many of the “stars” have left the program, ESM head coach Nick Garone, heading in his 10th season, still sees a lot of success in the future of the program.
“It’s going to be really hard to top last year. We were third in the state. That was a shining, crowning moment for this program,” he said. “This year, we’re not going to do that, but, we do have a really solid chance to get a couple of guys upstate.”
Busiello is returning for his second season on varsity as just an eighth-grader. He was preranked as the top 99-pound wrestler in Suffolk County in the latest rankings as of November 21 and had 48 wins last season. Garone said it’s basically state title or bust for the young grappler.
“This should be his year to pick up that title,” he said. “Last year he was struggling to fill [his] weight, this year he’ll be losing a few pounds to make that weight as a true-blue 99-pounder. He’s been to the finals already, there’s really nothing more to do but to win it.
“But he’s a 12-month-a-year guy,” Garone continued. “He’s been wrestling all year, going all over the island, all over the country going to these big tournaments with his dad, so he’s definitely somebody that can do it.”
Also expected to make a run at a state title this season will be junior Nick Garone, the coach’s nephew. He placed fifth last season in the county in a tough 132-pound weight class, but has grown considerably during the offseason and will wrestle at 170 pounds this season.
“He’s really motivated, a hard worker. If he can keep his head down, stay injury free, he could really make some noise in that weight class,” Coach Garone said.
Also returning will be seniors Sean Carey (145 pounds), Mark Zaharis (152) and Matt Defrancis (220/285), junior Alex German (220/285) and sophomore Joey Busiello (132/138), Adam’s older brother. Defrancis and German both placed fourth at the League V Tournament last season and are expected to improve this season, as are Carey and Zaharis. Joey Busiello will continue to be a starter this season for the Sharks.
Sophomores Corey Peters (126) and Michael Parrish (145) will be taking on larger roles on varsity this season after spending most, if not all, of last season on junior varsity.
“Everyone’s goals are different,” Coach Garone said. “I got guys who just want to be on the team, I got guys that want to start, I got guys that want to place in the leagues, and then I have other guys that want to win a state title, so the range is so broad. But they’re a great bunch of kids, I love being around them. I’m looking forward to keeping the program moving in a positive direction.”
Rocky Point will continue to be one of the toughest teams, not just in League V this season, but in Suffolk County; the Eagles are preranked as the third best dual-meet team in the county to start the season. Islip and Huntington are no slouches either, being ranked eight and nine, respectively, in the county. Kings Park and Sayville tend to field competitive teams year in and year out while Comsewogue and Harborfields make up the rest of League V this season.
Coach Garone, as he usually does, is going to use the dual-meet season to get his wrestlers primed for the postseason tournaments come February. For the first time in quite some time, all teams in Suffolk County will have one league dual meet in December; typically the dual-meet season doesn’t start until January. The Sharks will compete in the Autism Duals at William Floyd High School on Saturday, December 13, then they’ll host Sayville on Wednesday, December 17, at 4 p.m.
“The way I look at it is, if everyone is working hard, everybody is having fun, and everybody achieves what their goals are, then it’s a good season,” Coach Garone explained. “If I predicated having a successful season based on wins and losses in dual meets, it’s a very difficult thing to do because you might have holes in your lineups. I really gauge the progression of the season on how we perform in leagues, in counties and the states.
“Wrestling is an individual sport. What you put in is what you get out,” he continued. “Those kids who put a lot into it and work hard, those are the guys that are going to accomplish the bigger accolades at the end of the year.”