2002 preseason preview
Experienced team returns for Canton
By GERRY deSIMAS, JR.
Connecticut Wrestling Online
CANTON, Dec. 13, 2001 -- There will be a different atmosphere in the wrestling room at Canton High this winter. Oh, there will be the usual drills to prepare for the season but the intensity will probably be a little bit higher.
The Warriors welcome back a veteran team this season, a squad that could contend for its first NCCC championship since 1997 and possibly its first state championship.
Ten of 13 starters from last year's team (14-11, 3-3 NCCC) returned on the opening day of practice. While all 10 may not be able to regain spots in the varsity lineup due to weights of each individual wrestler, this looks to be strong group.
"It will be a challenging group," long-time head coach Bill Phelps said. "They have a lot more knowledge so we don't have to spend so much time on the basics. We should be able to get off to a quicker start than usual."
Canton got off to a 7-1 start a year ago with a fourth place finish in the Derby Invitational its best start since the 1994-95 campaign when Canton started a school-best 11-0 and finished second in Class S.
"The trick will be to remain healthy. That will be very important over the duration of the season," said Phelps, who will begin his 19th season behind the bench along with long-time assistant Ed deSimas, returning for his 17th season.
Defending league champions Josh Kaplan (135 last year) and Adam Szychowski (215) return for the Warriors.
Kaplan and Szychowski, both seniors, also won medals in the Class S tournament along with teammates Tom Bujold (130). Kaplan finished third while Bujold was fourth and Szychowski sixth.
Kaplan also finished sixth in the CIAC State Open.
Junior David Brummert (103 last year) finished second in the Derby Invitational and the NCCC Tournament.
Senior veteran Mike Grafstein, Courtney Hill, Chris Ziemba, Steve Babcock and Chris Palozie return along with junior Anthony Daniels. Palozie, a varsity wrestler as a sophomore, missed all of last season with a knee injury.
"We have some good wrestlers," Phelps said. "I think we have 10 wrestlers who could place in the top six (in Class S)."
However, the state tournament is weeks away. Canton has a challenging schedule in front of them.
They will compete in the Derby Invitational in December, the always tough Eagle Classic Tournament at Manchester's East Catholic in January and Somers' Groundhog Duals tournament. Canton will compete against some larger schools in the Rockville Tournament in late January.
Canton will even host its first quad-meet in years on Dec. 22 when they welcome Montville, Gilbert and Farmington. Since the team has two mats, they can finally host a four-school meet at home and begin to reduce the lopsided number of road matches the team competes in each year.
Defending league champion Avon and Enfield look to be the contenders for the NCCC crown along with the Warriors.
"This is a hungry team," Phelps said. "It's a team sport but it is an individual sport, too. These kids have been fighting and scratching for a long time. These kids seem to have the heart."
The potential is there.
"This is a group that would like to bring home a state title," said Phelps, who coached the Canton High boys soccer team to the 1995 Class S championship.
"They could do it if they work hard and stay healthy, where the weights fall and if we get some luck. Luck always has something to do with it."