Voids in lineup leave New Canaan grapplers with uphill battle
As if competing in the FCIAC with perennial FCIAC and State title contender Danbury and a wealth of other strong teams isn't challenging enough, New Canaan High School's wrestling squad has to try to overcome some holes in the lineup.
As the preseason concluded, New Canaan coach Paul Gallo had four vacant spots he was trying to fill. The team also lost four competitors to graduation, giving the lineup a new and overall inexperienced look in 2011-12.
What's more, several of the team members who also play football haven't been able to join the team yet because New Canaan reached the State title game, a good news-bad news scenario for football and wrestling, respectively.
Despite the early obstacles, Gallo expects his team to be competitive this winter. Coming off of a ninth place finish in the FCIAC Championships and a 13th place result in the Class L State finals a year ago, the coach has realistic goals.
"If we can be around .500 it's going to be a good year. We're going to have a lot of inexperience filling in weight classes," Gallo said.
The most significant of the four grads is Brian Khzouz, who won the Class L title and was runner-up in the 145-pound weight division in last year's conference championships.
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The good news for Gallo and company may not be noticed in terms of success on the mats right away, but an increase in participation bodes well for the future.
"Numbers are up this year. I've got a lot of new guys," Gallo said of 15 newcomers joining the team.
The new look extends from the team members to the weight classes themselves. Changes to some of the weight divisions include added upper weight divisions. The upper classes had been 171, 189, 215 and heavyweight. Under the new alignment, there will be weight classes of 170, 182, 195, 220 and heavyweight. The middle weight classes were retained and some of the lower weight classes were increased.
This year's captains are 170-pound competitor Dylan Kavookjian and 182 or 195 wrestler Dylan Leeming. Other returnees are junior Frank Hogan at 113, junior Kevin Hall at 120, junior Greg Wagner at 132, sophomore Ken Philipson at 138 or 145, and sophomore Jonathan Simmons at 145 or 152.
Juniors Brooks Simmons and John Rhudy will vie for mat time at 182. Senior Nick White is expected to grapple at 195 or 220. Sophomore Conor Buck is in the running for time at 220, and senior Kalin Killinger will grapple in the heavy weight class.