By MIKE SMITH
On Feb. 8, Harrison High School played host to one leg of the sectional wrestling qualifiers with grapplers from nine area high schools looking to earn their ticket to Arlington High School for next week’s tournament. When the dust settled, no team qualified more wrestlers than visiting New Rochelle, which will send 10 wrestlers to the Section I tournament.
According to second-year coach Eddie Ortiz, the Huguenots entered the qualifying round hoping to send even more wrestlers to Section I’s biggest stage, but Ortiz is more than pleased with the group that will be headed to sectionals on Feb. 15.
“The last few years we’ve done a good job of sending guys to sectionals, and I thought, coming in, we could have gotten 12 or 13 kids qualified,” Ortiz said. “But I think with 10 kids we did a pretty good job at the tournament.”
New Rochelle sent three competitors to the finals last weekend, with brothers Jordan Wallace (106 pounds) and Lamont Wallace (132) both taking first-place honors, and 99-pounder Jake Shore finishing second after a decision loss to Arlington’s Alfredo Olmedo.
All three wrestlers, along with third-place finishers Moises Tera (113) and Demetrius Rodriguez (170) could be forces at Arlington, according to Ortiz.
“We’ve got a couple of guys who have a shot,” the head coach said. “None are favorites like [the injured Nick] Barbaria would have been, but, if they put it together, I think they’ve got a shot to be All-Section wrestlers.”
The Wallace brothers, along with Tera and another section qualifier, Adam Burton (138) are no strangers to the sectional tournament, but Ortiz said all of his wrestlers will be ready for the grueling two-day competition given New Rochelle’s strength of schedule.
“We sent some guys to Eastern States, which is probably tougher than the sectional tournament,” Ortiz said. “It’s that same type of big venue and I think that these guys are going to be helped by that and the fact that we wrestled tough competition this year.”
With five days to prepare for sectionals, the Huguenots will probably do a little less mat work to prepare, opting instead to focus on diet, conditioning and the mental tests that await them at Arlington High School.
“We definitely taper off our training; we don’t go as long and as the week goes on, the kids don’t do as much live wrestling,” Ortiz said. “At this point, we are talking about how to prepare and making sure they are fresh.”
Ortiz and the Huguenots have also invited some other teams to work out at New Rochelle, but the head coach said he doesn’t want to give anyone too good a look at his wrestlers leading up to the tournament.
“You have to be careful that you’re not giving up too much, showing a wrestler’s tendencies,” he said. “So we’re getting ready, asking a few smaller Division 2 schools to come to make sure that you’re not practicing against someone you might see this weekend.”
The finals of the sectional tournament will be held on Feb. 16 at Clarkstown South High School.