BRISTOL - As the St. Paul wrestling team hosted Nonnewaug in its first dual meet of the season on Thursday, one thing was quite clear - lack of experience on the Falcons’ roster helped the Chiefs secure a 48-18 win.
For St. Paul, however, developing an experienced roster has been a struggle as head coach Edward Desimas hasn’t had success retaining wrestlers through the four years.
“It is what it is,” Desimas said. “I can tell you that the one-and-done [wrestler] has killed this program. Guys that only come out for one year and leave the program has not helped us. So we’re at scratch nothing and we’ve got to start all over again.”
Keeping the roster together is the focus moving forward, but for the head coach, that has come down to one specific factor.
“It’s a commitment factor,” Desimas said. “There are no other sports that have to make weight. All those other sports are a cakewalk to this sport. This is the hardest sport in the world. It’s the oldest sport and the hardest sport.”
While the Falcons are expecting this season to be a struggle, building a foundation for the program with the six freshmen wrestlers - Eric Atkison, Adrian George, Joshua Silva, Nicholas Hernandez, Joseph Laviero and Benjamin Shea - that are on the team is the priority.
It’s going to take some time though.
“Really it takes about a year before a first-year wrestler finds their groove,” St. Paul junior 145-pound wrestler Johann Strasser said. “You figure out what moves work for you, what you got to do for conditioning. It’s a different sport. For the new guys, I think it’s going to become their primary sport.”
But Strasser and some of the other experienced wrestlers on the team have liked what they have seen thus far.
“I saw potential,” Falcons senior Patrick George said. “I feel like they can do a lot better coming up. They’re only freshmen but they have a lot of potential. Some of them lost their first match but a lot of people lose their first match, you can’t win them all.”
Still, it’s clear it’s gut-check time for the St. Paul program and Desimas as the Falcons look to improve and develop a wrestling culture that kids can thrive in.
And slowly, but surely, St. Paul expects to see those improvements. Whether it’s at some point this season or in the ones to come remains to be seen.
“It’s going to be a struggle this year because we have so many new guys,” Strasser said. “But next year I think it’s going to be a different story.”
The group will have a chance to build on its experience at the Killingly Duals today.
Dan Orencole can be reached at 860-973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org