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New Canaan wrestling coach looking for commitment, growth of feeder program

Updated 4:51 pm, Monday, December 10, 2012
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With a small roster loaded with underclassmen, 24-year coach Paul Gallo views this wrestling season at New Canaan High School as one in which he will play the role of instructor, more so than in the past.

"My job's going to be teaching this year. I'm going to have to do a lot of teaching," Gallo said. "This year I have a lot of small guys and a couple of big freshmen."

Freshmen with size face a tough task of, for the most part, facing opponents with more experience.

Gallo is hopeful for the future of the program with the potential emergence of up and coming youth wrestlers in town.

"I need to get a bigger base," Gallo said.

For now, however, his young squad is in an overall developmental stage.

"We're trying to get to .500 this year, fill out every weight class and be competitive," Gallo said. "I need these kids to stick with it."

In 2011-12, the Rams went 9-8 in the regular season, placed seventh among 16 schools in the FCIAC Championships and were 17th among 28 teams in the Class L state finals.

This year's captains are John Rhudy and Kevin Hall who are likely to grapple in the 182 and 126 point weight divisions, respectively.

Other key returnees include junior 145-pounder Ken Philipson, who placed fourth in the FCIAC championships a year ago, senior Frank Hogan at 120 pounds, senior Clayton Michaels in the 132 pound weight class, and junior Brandon Pak, who wrestled 195 a year ago.

The likely heavyweight competitor is sophomore Malaki Holan. The roster and weight divisions were being sorted out as preseason unfolded.

The Rams were only two points behind sixth-place Stamford in last year's FCIAC finals. Danbury is coming off its 25th FCIAC title in the past 26 years, and Gallo doesn't expect anything to be different this season.

"No one's beating them this year," Gallo said.

Other tough teams in the conference and in the state include Fairfield Warde, Greenwich and Trumbull.

"We have a lot of teams that are tough. You've just got to compete," Gallo said. "It gets the better guys better."

Gallo notes that Hall, who was second in the FCIAC Championships and third in the Class L finals in the 113-pound division a year ago, doesn't have comparable competition within the team and will have to put in extra time after practice to stay sharp and improve.

"We're really excited to have a whole bunch of new guys come out," said Hall, taking a positive attitude like his coach.

"It's going to be fun. It's always fun," Gallo said of the start of another season. "If you don't like it you can't do it. The reason you coach is because you like to see the guys learn."

Hall notes that there is a lot to learn and looks forward to working with the young wrestlers on the team.

"It's a long season and so much can be improved," Hall said. "Practices are tough because the sport's tough. There's nothing more satisfying than coming off the mat knowing you've won a match."

The Rams are scheduled to begin the season in Southbury in the Pomperaug Tournament on Dec. 15, before visiting Bridgeport Central on Dec. 19.

The next meet, the team's first home competition, is the Dec. 27 battle with Greenwich, Staples of Westport and Brien McMahon of Norwalk.