Last winter was a bit of a renaissance for the Hampton Bays wrestling team.
After dedicating their wrestling room to former head coach Mike Fitzgerald, the Baymen went on a tear in the final month of the season, which concluded with Hampton Bays finishing just two-and-a-half points behind Port Jefferson for third place at the Suffolk County Division II Tournament, with six finalists and nine place-winners out of the dozen or so Baymen wrestlers that were on hand.
This winter, Hampton Bays is setting out to prove that it can continue to hang with the top Division II teams in the county.
“I feel we can get second place,” Hampton Bays head coach Paul Hoshyla said. “If everybody stays healthy and wrestles at the weights they’re supposed to, I think we can go up one placement.
“I don’t like to say we can’t beat a team, but Mattituck is the best team in our division and they have a full complement of guys,” he continued. “We’re just not as deep as far as numbers. I don’t think we’re deep enough to accumulate enough points to get first place. We’re going to do the best with what we have and last season was a great season for us to build on.”
The team has certainly taken on a new dynamic in a year’s time. While Ralph Oswald, the team’s captain and one of two county champs, was the only wrestler to graduate from the program, the team still has a few more holes. Lucas Kraus, a two-time county runner-up, will be forced to miss his senior season due to a serious back injury. Calvin Patruska and Tom O’Shea, two strong wrestlers who would have infused some senior experience for the team, have both moved out of the district.
Even with those losses, the team still has a strong contingent of returning wrestlers. Seniors Travis Flynn (160 pounds) and Ayden Muhs will be the team’s captains to start the season, and Hoshyla has high hopes for both wrestlers. Flynn placed second at counties last season, while Muhs finished third. Muhs cut a considerable amount of weight during the offseason and could wrestle anywhere from 138 to 145 pounds this season, according to Hoshyla, after wrestling at 182 pounds last season.
Also returning is sophomore Johnny Nolan, the reigning county champ at 182 pounds. He was a win away from placing at states last season so the bar has been set high for him this winter. Jackson Perez (195), another sophomore, came out of nowhere to place second in the county last season, and junior Joey Panetta (113/120) and senior Andres Martinez (195) both placed third at counties last season.
The Baymen, for the first time in quite a while, finally have the depth they’ve been searching for, and should only forfeit a couple of weight classes here and there. “We have a legitimate shot at sending four guys upstate this year,” Hoshyla said. “Last year we balanced out pretty well. This year we’re going to be pretty solid and have a nice spread.”
Junior Zach Brochu and sophomore Nico Antieri both appeared at counties for Hampton Bays last season and a busy offseason could propel both wrestlers to possibly place this season. New to the team will be freshman Michael Caltabiano (106), junior Chris Downs (126), who is returning to the sport after taking a few years off, and junior Felipe Salazar (285), who gives the team something it’s been lacking the past few seasons, a super heavyweight.
Hampton Bays will start the season at the Sprig Gardner Tournament at East Hampton on Saturday, December 12. The Baymen then get the League VII/Division II dual meet season started against county champion Mattituck on December 16 at home at 6 p.m. Hoshyla said it’ll be a good barometer for his team.
“Mattituck is going to be a tall order. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, it’s a challenge,” Hoshyla said. “They’re a program we look up at and we want to get there. I don’t know if we’re going to be there this year or not but they’re the mark. They’re sitting on the throne, so to speak, and we want to knock them off.”