A look inside the Southampton wrestling room this year reveals plenty of diversity, not just in terms of age and size but in skill level and experience as well.
The Mariners will truly have a mixed bag this season when it comes to the make-up of their team. At some weight classes, head coach Lester Ware will be assured of a bonus-points victory in nearly every match. In others, he will be forced to forfeit because of inexperience.
But he said he’s excited about the upcoming season and for the future of the program in general. Whether he’s prepping a seasoned veteran for a possible top-five finish at states, or demonstrating basic moves to a first-time grappler, it’s clear that Ware is in his element and passionate about the future of Southampton wrestling.
The room is pretty full these days, and that’s the bottom line.
“I think we’ll be pretty close to filling all the weight classes,” he said. “We have a good number of kids, and we have a strong core that should put us in a good spot, even with the young kids. It will come down to how quickly the younger guys can develop.
“We have some guys who could place at states,” he added. “And some guys who are as green as a kale smoothie.”
Southampton brings back four wrestlers who will have their sights set on winning a Division II county title and going upstate. The headliner among them is senior heavyweight Peter Strassfield. The senior had a disappointing end to his season last year—he was upset in the county semifinals and finished third. This year, Strassfield is the favorite to win the county title, and could even challenge for a state crown. The year-round wrestler had another great offseason, winning the Greco-Roman title in the Northeast Regionals, and he also went 2-2 at nationals in Greco. Strassfield also attended the prestigious Super 32 meet, where he went 3-2 against the best competition the country has to offer.
“He’s going to go far,” Ware said of Strassfield.
Mitch Pena is another talented senior who wants to book a ticket to the state meet. He was upset in the county final last year in a hard-fought overtime match with Babylon’s Brett Frole. Pena had a strong offseason as well, placing in the top five at the offseason state tournament in both freestyle and Greco-Roman. He will compete at 126 pounds this year.
Senior Chris Osufsen (138 pounds) proved himself to be one of the top wrestlers in his weight class last season before suffering a broken collarbone that kept him out of the county tournament. Prior to that injury, Osufsen had beaten the wrestlers who wound up taking second, third and fourth in the weight class at counties. He finished fourth in freestyle at the offseason state tournament this year.
Also returning to the mat this season for Southampton is Colby Lenahan, who will compete at around 145 or 152 pounds. Lenahan missed all of last season but was 19-9 as a sophomore. If he can return to that form, Ware said, he could also challenge for a county title.
Aside from those four standouts, Southampton is mostly young and/or inexperienced—but Ware said several other wrestlers could have a solid year. Eighth-grader Billy Bockhaus will compete at 99 or 106 pounds; freshman Colby Gill will be at 106; sophomore Adonis Hutchings will be at 113; sophomore Paolo Cagliotti will be at 132 or 138; senior Matt Morgani, freshman Donny Frankenbach, junior Chris Cardona, junior Damari McFadden and junior Mark Gullilo will be at 145 or 152; sophomores Jack O’Brien and Marco Alfaro will be at 160; senior Ian Saw-Burke should be strong at 170; sophomore Reagan Soledad will be at 182; junior Sam Osborne will be at 195; and junior Billy Cook will work at 220 or 285, along with Strassfield.
The Mariners lost only two seniors to graduation from last year’s team—Alejandro Reyes and Rafal Rokosz. Rokosz finished fourth at the state tournament at 220 pounds, after winning the Division II county title, and is now on the wrestling team at Duke University.
Ware said he expects the Mariners to have some success as a dual meet team in League VII this year, where Mattituck, Port Jefferson and Babylon should be the top teams. Mattituck is the favorite to win the league title with a stacked team again this year, while Port Jefferson returns the DiVincenzo brothers, Matteo and Tristan, who both placed at states last year.
Southampton will kick off the season at the Sprig Gardner Tournament at East Hampton High School on Saturday, December 13, and will travel to the North Fork to face Mattituck in the first dual meet of the season on December 17 at 4:30 p.m.