Weekly Feature

2016-12-22 / Sports

Overcoming longtime starter’s graduation among tougher tasks facing East wrestling


It’s hard to come across an athlete at the high school level who is able to compete at the varsity level for all six of the years available to him or her, which is why it was difficult for West Seneca East’s wrestling team to say goodbye to Josh Katashuk after last season.

But, with 11 seniors on the squad who have plenty of varsity experience and success under their belts, second year coach Will Walkden is certainly eager to see what life without Katashuk holds for the Trojans.

“Losing Josh was a huge loss for the team because he was a dependable wrestler every time he stepped on the mat,” Walkden said. “I’ve been coaching this group of seniors since they were seventh-graders, though, and it’s been quite the learning experience for me in making the jump from volunteering to being the head coach. I’m glad to have another year to work with these seniors, though, and I think the experience they bring to the team will hopefully go a long way towards helping us improve on last year’s record.”

East, which took five wrestlers to sectionals last season, will count on two of those returning sectional grapplers — Matt Walkden and Justin Kimble — to help guide the squad this winter. Matt Walkden, a co-captain who wrestles at 160 pounds this winter, placed third in his weight class last year and currently has an 11-3 record on the season. Kimble, a third-year captain who took fourth at sectionals last year, has an unblemished 15-0 record on the year at 170 pounds.

The team’s other co-captain, Nate Wallace, currently sits at 11-4 on the year at 120 pounds.

“Our three captains should be able to step up and make sure the team is heading in the right direction every day, on top of being some of our bigger scorers,” coach Walkden said.

Joe Ramunno, who is 12-3 this season, should also be one of the squad’s big scorers at 285 pounds, while Tim Vanderlaan (120) and Mark Sanfilippo (126) are among the team’s newcomers looking to make a splash early and often. Aidin Bocolucci and Chris Brunner are hoping to have an impact on the team’s success as well.

“Nate, Justin and Matt have been wrestling since before seventh grade and their dominance shows on the mat,” coach Walkden said. “They use the skills they have learned over the years to dominate their matches. And Tim and Mark, they’ve stepped up into big roles and have shown no fear in being thrown right into the varsity lineup. They, along with a number of our other underclassmen, are willing to put in the work needed to make themselves better.”

East, which is looking to end a five-year stretch of sub-.500 seasons this year, gave an early indication as to its potential for team success this season after going 5-3 at the Sweet Home Duals Tournament. The Trojans technically tied for third place but lost out on that spot on criteria to settle for fifth. Matt Walkden, Kimble, Ramunno and Wallace all contributed to East’s success at the tournament.

“It has been a tough past couple years, with the head coach changing multiple times, but I feel like we are finally on the right track and things are looking up from here,” coach Walkden said. “We’re really working hard to hopefully finish the season with a positive record so we can prove to everyone that we’re turning our program around.”

East returned to action Wednesday against Iroquois, but information about that match was not available at press time. The Trojans will stay active over the upcoming holiday break by taking part in the Grand Island Holiday Duals Tournament on Thursday, Dec. 29.

Following that tournament, however, East won’t return to the mats in a competitive sense until it hosts Starpoint on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017.

“I teach the team to learn from every match, whether we win or lose, because there is always something that you can work on,” coach Walkden said. “Hard work always pays off, and there is never a day we leave that room that I can say everyone did not give it their all.”

In related program news, East will be beginning this year’s kids club program starting on Monday, Jan. 9. Coach Walkden hopes that running a youth program will help to spark interest in the sport among the district’s younger students, which would help him rebuild the program.

email: jnadolinski@beenews.com

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