When Paul Hoshyla took over for Rafael Lievano as the new head coach of the Hampton Bays wrestling team in the offseason, he was challenged by athletic director Drew Walker and asked, “How can we make our program better?” Hoshyla, who was an assistant for 14 years under Lievano, who is now coaching the middle school team, is ready to take that challenge head on.
While he won’t be making too many changes to the program, Hoshyla says he will simply be adding his own “flavor” to it. The main change will be taking a select group of wrestlers up the island twice a week to Ascend Wrestling, where some of the team’s more advanced wrestlers can get more time on the mats. The new head coach explained that it’s tough to get a lot done in the two hours that are allotted for practice each day and giving the wrestlers more time should work out well for his team.
“What we’re looking for is to make our kids better and this is the way we could do it,” Hoshyla said. “This is absolutely optional and we’re not going to look down on a kid if he can’t go.”
Hoshyla will be assisted this season by James Kraus, the father of returning county place winner Lucas Kraus. Mr. Kraus has been working in the Hampton Bays wrestling program in some fashion the past few years. He adds a wealth of experience to the team, having strong ties to the Huntington and Riverhead wrestling programs as well.
“He’s a valuable asset,” Hoshyla said of Kraus. “He’s willing to go the extra mile with the kids. He’s offering to help drive guys up the island to the clinics. We’re going to take the ball and run with it and try and help our program grow.”
Hoshyla and Kraus will be working with basically a clean slate, since multiple county place winner Cody Nolan, and another strong wrestler, Anthony Mora, graduated in June. That leaves the Baymen with just two returning county place winners in junior Lucas Kraus and senior Ralph Oswald. Kraus placed second at counties last year at 106 pounds after losing to Matteo DiVencenzo of Port Jefferson in the finals. He will move up to 113 pounds this season. Oswald, who placed fourth at 138 pounds last season, is returning as the team’s lone captain this season and will wrestle at 152.
“We’re hoping that the next round of guys are going to step up,” Hoshyla said. “Last year, a lot of the guys were winning matches, but they weren’t getting past that next level of wrestling. Against All-County guys, they would lose by a point or two and we want to be able to fix that, to crack into that next level.
“We want six of our wrestlers to get All-County,” he added. “That’s one of our goals, to get more guys into the finals and hopefully get someone upstate.”
Returning with Kraus and Oswald this season will be sophomores Joe Panetta (120 pounds) and Tom O’Shea (170) and junior Travis Flynn (160). Hoshyla thinks all three wrestlers are primed for a good season due to their commitment in the offseason. Sophomore Ken Giron, the younger brother of Kevin Giron, a successful wrestler who graduated in 2013, is now up on varsity and is expected to take on a more prominent role on the team this season at either 132 or 138 pounds. Ayden Muhs (182), a junior, is also returning this season after a number of injuries derailed most of last season for him.
“Even though our numbers aren’t great, we have a good mix of guys falling into different weight classes,” Hoshyla explained. “We usually have a log jam at different weights, where we’ll have three guys stuck at 145, or three at 120, and that wouldn’t give us any flexibility with our lineup. We should have a little bit more diversity this season which will help us.
“With a little bit of luck, and no injuries, we could surprise some people,” he added.
Hampton Bays will have to deal with Mattituck during the League VII/Division II dual-meet season. The Tuckers ran away with the overall county title last season and appear to be returning another strong team this winter. Babylon and Port Jeff have strong teams each year and will also be tough for the Baymen. Center Moriches and Southampton could be two teams the Baymen will be competitive with, while Smithtown Christian and Stony Brook will, once again, field smaller teams and have a hard time filling out weight classes. Bayport/Blue Point, which had been one of the top teams in the division for a number of seasons, moved up to Division I, relieving some of the stress on Division II.
Hoshyla said that since numbers are low this season, it will be tough to fill every weight class, especially 99 and 285 pounds. However, he thinks his team will be competitive in the weights they are able to fill.
“We want to be able to show the real good teams in the league that we’re not here to get blown out,” he said. “We may not win the dual meet scores but we’re going to put good matches in this year. If we’re wrestling nine or 10 of our 13 matches we want to win more than 50 percent of those matches, and I’d like to turn that into a positive for the team, that’s what I want to use to motivate our kids.”
Hampton Bays will compete in the Sprig Gardner Memorial Tournament at East Hampton High School on Saturday, December 13. For the first time in a quite a while, all Suffolk County teams will have a league dual meet in December; typically the first dual meet wasn’t until January. The Baymen will be at Port Jeff on December 17 at 4:30 p.m. before hosting their annual Doc Fallot Memorial Tournament at the high school on December 20 at 9 a.m.