Many times when a high school wrestling team wins a state championship, the following year is one of rebuilding as losses to graduation are too much to overcome.
At Cardinal Gibbons, however, coach Frank Pettineo and his younger team are gearing up for another run at a title.
Last year, the Chiefs won the fifth state championship in school history to become the most decorated wrestling program in Broward County as Gibbons eclipsed McArthur’s haul of four titles from 1979 to 1989.
The Chiefs will go for No.6 this year with an impressive lineup as eight of 14 state qualifiers return. Seven of those eight placed at the Class 1A state meet at the Lakeland Center.
“We are very young and only have five seniors and three juniors on the team,” said Pettineo, a Gibbons graduate who starts his 27th season as coach and is 697-46. “But we’re loaded with talent. It’s just young. We know our competition at states will be [Orlando] Lake Highland Prep again, but we’re going to be deep. It’s nice that we can lose six or seven kids and still be good.
“Our kids have been working very hard. They know what’s expected of them. We’re in good shape. We’re very deep.’’
Gibbons, which has won all five of its state titles since 2002, expects big things out of junior Dominic Gibson who isn’t one of the 14 who made it to state last year because he sustained a broken ankle in the BCAA finals last year.
Gibson said he spent six months in rehab because of the fracture and is ready to make up for lost time at 126 pounds. Gibson was 25-1 going into the county finals when he was injured.
“It’s tough to explain, but I dream about what could have been and what will be all the time,” Gibson said.
Aside from returning wrestlers such as Gibson, Alex Lopouchanski (who finished third at 145 last year) and Diego Bell (fourth at 182), the Chiefs also bring in a pair of experienced freshman.
Although only in ninth grade, Erich Byelick has been to states twice both with Calvary Christian as a seventh-grader and last year with Indian Rocks Christian near St. Petersburg.
Byelick won his 100th varsity match last year and still has four years of eligibility remaining.
Osvany Ley also comes in after finishing fifth for Hialeah’s Mater Academy last year as an eighth-grader.
Gibbons’ biggest challenge in its bid to repeat as Broward County champions will be its parochial cousins to the south at St. Thomas Aquinas.
The Raiders have finished third at state the past three years — Aquinas competes in Class 3A — and will also try and overcome the loss of some talented seniors, including state champion John Weiss.
Coach Rob Wimberley said he believes he has a team ready to fight at Kississimme this year and has a pair of talented freshmen in Grant Aronoff and Vinny Sessa to help get the Raiders going.
Somerset should also be represented at states once more as senior Raekwon Reggler returns.
As a junior last year, Reggler went 58-1 and dominated at the finals to win the school’s fourth state title in the program’s third season.
Friday-Saturday: Seahorse Open; Monday: Regular season begins; Dec. 5-6: H-Town Throwdown at Hialeah Gardens; Coral Springs Duals; Dec. 6: Cardinal Gibbons Duals; Dec. 12-13: Graves Invitational at Brandon; Western Wildcat Invitational; Dec. 19-20: South Dade Duals; Coral Park Duals; Jan. 2-3: Prep Slam in Atlanta; Jensen Beach Invitational; Jan. 9-10: Manatee Duals, Archbishop McCarthy Duals; Jan. 16-17: Cypress Bay Duals; Martin County Duals; Jan. 23: Tri-County Championships at Olympic Heights; Feb. 6-7: GMAC and BCAA championships; Feb. 23-28: Districts; March 6-7: Regionals; March 13-14: State championships at Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee.
DEFENDING STATE CHAMPIONS
Class 3A: Homestead South Dade; Class 2A: Brandon; Class 1A: Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons
PRESEASON TOP 5 TEAMS
1. Cardinal Gibbons; 2. St. Thomas Aquinas; 3. Somerset Academy; 4. Everglades; 5. Cypress Bay.
DEERFIELD BEACH (Coach James L. Forbes, 3rd year at DB, 6th overall, 32-66-2). Last year: 14-8. Top wrestlers: Andrew Torres (220, Jr.); Ryan Sills (132, Jr.); Brandon Ductan (120, Sr.); Josie Greffin (160, Sr.).
EVERGLADES (Coach Eric Hughes, 8th year at EV, 32nd overall). Last year: 36-6. Top wrestlers: Randolph Prudhomme (170, Sr.); Khantrell Burden (182/195, Sr.); DeAngelo Minnis (HWT, Sr.); Connor Curran (195/220, Sr.); Kerry Curran (195/220, Sr.); Enrique Romero (138, Sr.).
MCARTHUR (Coach Mike Zarra, 10th year at McA, 18th overall, 173-77). Last year: 24-13. Top wrestlers: Marky Felix (138, Sr.); Anthony Vasconez (160, Sr.); Joshua Padilla (152, Sr.); Zavier Grant (152, Sr.); Romain Richards (170, Sr.); Raymond Donnelly (145, Sr.).
ST. THOMAS AQUINAS (Coach Rob Wimberley, 9th year). Last year: 18-3 (third at state). Top wrestlers: Jonah Gomes (138, Sr.); Richerd Desir-Jones (HWT, Sr.); Drew Manzo (113, Jr.); Christian Pellecer (120, Sr.); Velvario Faulkner (220, Sr.); Grant Aronoff (132, Fr.); Vinny Sessa (106, Fr.).
SOUTH PLANTATION (Coach Mike Davis, 6th year). Last year: 2-11. Top wrestlers: Christopher Grunwald (152, Sr.); Davis Camacho (113, Sr.); Trey Hardy (145, Jr.); Paul Nikrooye (152, Sr.); Thomas Cinmante (180, Jr.); Devin Hart (138, Jr.).
WEST BROWARD (Coach J.C. Villar, 3rd year). Last year: 12-3. Top wrestlers: Erick Schmidt (120, Sr.); Johnathan Alvarez (126, Sr.).
WESTERN (Coach Charlie C. Morgan III, 13th year at WES, 17th overall, 124-122-1). Last year: 8-5. Top wrestlers: Yisrael Londono, (132/138, Jr.); Patrick Peterson (195, Jr.); Joey Tucker (145, Jr.); Yoni Malca (152, Sr.); Vincent Garcia (132/138, Jr.).
CARDINAL GIBBONS (Coach Frank Pettineo). Last year: 26-0 (state champions). Top wrestlers: Dominique Gibson (126, Jr.); Alex Lopouchanski (160, Sr.); Erich Byelich (152, Fr.); Julian Georgescu (170, Jr.); Diego Bell (195, Sr.); Nino Sannasardo (182, Sr.); Austin Nelson (220, Sr.).
SOMERSET ACADEMY (Coach Joe Blasucci, 4th year, 77-12). Last year: 22-3 (10th at state). Top wrestlers: Raekwon Reggler (182, Sr.); Jonathan Astacio (132, Sr.); Daniel Valledor (120, Fr.); Frankie Talshahar (106, 7th); Joey Lopez (138, So.); Vinnie Blasucci (126, So.).