BRISTOL - With defending Class L state champion Bristol Eastern leading the way as the new wrestling season begins today, Bristol Central, St. Paul and Terryville will all be looking to make a move and improve from last season.
For the Lancers more of the same is expected, with some core wrestlers returning and a strong freshmen group capable of competing at the varsity level right way.
The Rams come off a season in which they just went over the .500 mark. Bristol Central hopes to improve and returns some key wrestlers, while also having some incoming freshmen capable of stepping in and competing.
St. Paul hopes to maintain its roster after having some wrestlers stop competing, while Terryville loses the majority of its state place finishers from last year.
Below is a closer look at each team in the area.
Head coach: Bryant Lishness (10th season)
Last year: 19-0 (Class L champion)
Key losses: Zach Marquis (182, Class L champ), Anthony Lozier (145, 4th place in Class L), Jack Kachidurian (132, 5th place Class L).
Key returnees: Bryce Beebe (106, 4th Class L), Jordon Champagne (113, 4th Class L) Carson Sassu, (126, 5th Class L), Justin Marshall (152, 4th Class L), Mike Barrett (160, Class L champ, 3rd in State Open, 3rd in New England Championships), Trinidad Gonzalez (182, Class L champ), (Hidekal Mangual (220, 6th Class L), Andrew Cercone (285).
Newcomers to watch: Mason Lishness (106), Andrew Lozier (106) Aaron Morocho (113), Tom Nichols (120) Logan Morelli (152), Jackson Morelli (152).
Outlook: The Lancers are the premier program in the area, becoming the Class L state champions last season, and are expecting a similar result this season.
“We are very excited for the season after last year,” Lishness said. “The kids put in some solid work this offseason with camps and tournaments.”
With a strong freshmen class, the Lancers have depth on their roster.
“This is one of our deepest freshman classes we’ve had,” Lishness said. “A bunch of them have all wrestled previously with the Gladiators and can handle varsity level competition right now, but our lineup is deep, so they will have to knock out a returning varsity wrestler to make their mark.”
With the success last year, there are a lot of expectations, but Bristol Eastern has the tools needed in order to make another championship run.
“We are at a great point for our program with what we accomplished last year,” Lishness said. “We should be in the mix with the best teams in Connecticut again this year.”
Head coach: Pete Veleas (19th season)
Last year: 9-8
Key losses: Jake Borda (126), Jarrod Ashe (126), Josh Wright (195), and Jason Hume (285).
Key returnees: Cayleb Leclerc (120), Tim Armstrong (113/120), Josh Anderson (126/132), Sam Ridgeway (126/132), Travis Bellemare (132/138), Jake Cotton (145) and Bailey McCann (182/195).
Outlook: With some key losses, Terryville is looking to continue its success with a new core croup.
“The Kangaroos are in a rebuilding year, after finishing fifth in Class S a year ago,” Veleas said. “We graduated four of our five state place finishers from last year.”
“The only returning medalist from last year is Cayleb Leclerc, who was a Class S champ at 106 and looks to be a solid 120 this year,” Veleas said.
Head coach: Matt Boissonneault (5th season)
Last year: 11-10
Key losses: Travis Parsons (126), Jeremy Ganavage (160).
Key returnees: Chris Trelli (120, 2nd in Class L, 2nd in State Open, 4th in New England), Mike Guzman (220, 4th in Class L), Damian Mahaffy (182), Joey Frechette (138), John Duncan (285), Lexie Barbosa (285).
Newcomers to watch: Jake Aldi (106), Jakob Salinas (195), Orlando Baldwin (182), Luke Schilling (132).
Outlook: The Rams are a confident group coming into this season and look to build off last year, with six seniors leading the way.
“We have six seniors on the team and each guy is a great leader,” Boissonneault said. “In addition to buying into our system and doing everything that’s asked of them, they’ve done an excellent job promoting the sport, getting some younger, athletic underclassman out for the team and taking the time to help them learn in practice.
“They’re each poised and prepared for successful seasons, but I think their legacy will be felt even after they graduate.”
A lot of the Bristol Central team has been developing on the mat since coming to the school.
“Many of our returning guys came into the sport with no experience, but they’ve worked hard - during the season and during the offseason - to improve,” Boissonneault said. “Once we get going with our schedule, each competition is just an opportunity to see where we are at that moment in terms of how we measure up to our competition.”
Head coach: Edward deSimas (5th season)
Last year: 13-17
Key losses: Five seniors, four juniors, three sophomores and two freshmen will not be back from last year’s team.
Roster: Two seniors (Atem Caron and Patrick George), three juniors (Kevin Charles, Johann Strasser and Chris Warner), one sophomore (Evan Kowalski) and five freshmen (Eric Atkison, Adrian George, Nick Hernandez, Ben Shea and Joshua Silva).
Outlook: The Falcons will look to keep all their wrestlers on the team, which was a problem last season.
With a 38-58 career record with St. Paul, deSimas and the Falcons will look to get a strong performance out of the five incoming freshmen and maintain them for their four years at the school.
“To keep all athletes through the year and to have the underclassmen return for years to come” is the goal, deSimas said.
Dan Orencole can be reached at or