Elk Lake will host five matches this year, after only hosting a couple last year and one the previous year. The Warriors also add four freshmen to a roster that didn’t have any seniors last year, bringing the stable of wrestlers for Rob Gagliardi up to 14.
“We finally have a year with more than two home matches,” said Gagliardi, the district’s high school physical education teacher. “We have five home matches this season which we are excited about. Northeast Bradford cancelled their dual tournament at the end of the season so we had to fill those three competition points with three duals. We’ll be back at the Wyalusing duals to kick off the season and pretty much follow the same tourneys as last season.”
“It’s pretty sweet, and I think we might just catch a little more recognition from the school as a result of it,” said senior Noah Atkins.
Atkins said of the team’s schedule, “I feel like we will do a great job anywhere we go. Of course it won’t always be ideal, but the Ram duals will definitely help us set a pace for the year, and if we need to pick it up after it’s said and done, we will do it.”
Last season, according to Gagliardi, the Warriors battled with academic eligibility all season, leading to half- seven of the 14- the wrestlers being ineligible at any given point on the season.
He added, “Our core group of kids, however, were very committed and we could always count on them to pick up some team points. We were still a growing team, and since we didn’t lose any seniors we’re looking at an even more filled lineup this season.”
Gagliardi doesn’t feel that grades will be an issue this season, saying, “I expect we will not have any academically ineligible throughout this season as our academic policy has changed a little.”
Returning to the mat are seniors Atkins and Thaddeus Woodhead, who will be tri-captains this season along with sophomore Todd Snyder.
These wrestlers were chosen by Gagliardi and assistant coach Tim Woolcock based on sportsmanship, coachability, leadership, and citizenship.
“My senior year means a lot to me,” said Atkins. “Every year has meant so much to me, actually. Even my worst year. That’s what I learned the most from. I’m planning to put all my hard work in front of me and use it as I should. I’ve done everything I could to prepare this year, from working out to getting extra practices with whoever I could.”
Gagliardi has six returning starters to the mats this season, and around 10 to 12 with varsity experience, but is also looking forward to a fuller lineup due to kids coming up from the junior high program and not losing any seniors from last year.
Atkins, who is looking to grapple in college, said, “We aren’t the same team as last year, regardless of our numbers. We have the same people, but almost everybody has grown so much as people. The energy this year is already higher, and I have a lot of faith that my team will consistently do their very best, and it’ll cash out when it does. We have put in work.”
Gagliardi said, “We don’t really have any lightweights under 126, so we will be giving up some forfeits, but we are filled from 126 and up during the meat of the season and post-season. We have an up-and-coming wrestler in John Tyler, a freshman who is coming off a great junior high run in the last two years.”
At practices, Gagliardi and Woolcock are stressing basic and foundational technique.
“We are emphasizing the importance of the basic positions and techniques. Conditioning is also a big part of our practices, and making sure our wrestlers are prepared to go at least six hard minutes on the mat,” Gagliardi explained.
In the offseason, the coaches worked with the team on dealing with taking care of the things they can control and all the logistical measures that can be taken place before officially starting the season.
The coach offered, “Things such as physicals and recerts being in on time, rides for before and after practice, practice schedule planning over breaks, hydration testing, importance of good grades, and getting in that mindset of battle and focusing on their goals.”
“We are looking to finish with a solid season, finishing better than previous years in our league and looking for at least three regional qualifiers this year,” said Gagliardi. “Our core group of guys genuinely want to be at practice and make an effort to get better every day. There is nowhere they would rather be from 3-5 p.m. everyday than in our practice room. They push themselves physically.”
He continued, “Mentally, I think we get in our own heads a bit and overthink and overanalyze things. We get out of our flow state that we should be in and compete in. So that is something we are working on- mental toughness and mental strength.”
“I highly encourage anyone to wrestle,” said Atkins. “If you do everything you’re supposed to do, and you constantly challenge yourself to push forward and overcome hardship, you will see your efforts come to fruition in more ways than one.”
“At the end of the season, I want the team to be able to look back on this time in their life and how hard they have worked and got through tough times, because, they will pale in comparison to the work they have put in now. And that it is worth it to take risks in life, it is important to continue to set goals, and challenge yourself,” said Gagliardi.
Roster: Seniors Noah Atkins, Herbert Roe, and Thaddeus Woodhead. Juniors Nik Canfield, Kellen Wescott, and Jacob Yetter. Sophomores Terrence Brozonis, Codi Bomboy, Todd Snyder, and Joseph Merschen. Freshmen Alton Swingle, Dakota Pellew, Clarence Roe, and John Tyler.
Schedule: Dec. 7 at Wyalusing Duels; Dec.11 at Lackawanna Trail, 6:45 p.m.; Dec. 14 Lackawanna League Championship at Wallenpaupack, TBA; Dec. 16 at Northeast Bradford. 6:45 p.m.; Dec. 18 at Montrose, 6:45 p.m.; Dec. 19 vs. Scranton Prep, 6:45 p.m.; Dec. 27 at Tunkhannock Tournament; Dec. 28 at Tunkhannock Tournament; Jan. 4 at South Williamsport Tournament; Jan. 8 vs. Blue Ridge, 6:45 p.m.; Jan. 11 at Unatego Tournament (NY); Jan. 15 at Mountain View, 6:45 p.m.; Jan. 18 vs. Western Wayne, 6:45 p.m.; Jan. 29 vs. Sayre, 6:45 p.m.; Feb. 5 vs. North Pocono, 6:45 p.m.; Feb. 12 at Wyoming Area, 6:45 p.m.