The optimism surrounding the Chester Academy wrestling program is tremendous, as Chester welcomes back accomplished wrestlers and brings aboard a strong set of newcomers.
Key returning student athletes for the Hambletonians include Devin McGovern (senior, 285 pounds), Mark Bruckenstein (senior, 132), Kwalin Gonzalez (senior, 170), Dylan Bullock (senior, 220), Cole Greco (junior, 182), and Teddy Szymanski (sophomore, 195).
“We have three captains this year,’’ said Chester Head Coach Jimmy Ehlers. “Each brings something to the table that the team can benefit from.
"Mark Bruckenstein continues a legacy that his brother, a Chester graduate and former wrestler, brought each day to practice. He is an extremely hard worker and pushes each kid he wrestles with to their fullest potential. I feel if he can stay focused in both the classroom and on the mat he can do great things. Kwalin Gonzalez is coming off a very productive first year after being pleaded to finally try wrestling. He has a motor like no kid I have ever seen. He makes each kid in the room see what hard work and dedication can do in only his second year of wrestling.
“Teddy Szymanski -- it is really hard picking a kid in the 10th grade to be a captain, but he has grown tremendously. He was a key component to organizing offseason practices, creating team group chats and is a really good role-model to some of the younger kids on the team.’’
Key newcomers include Bryan Sahad (senior, 152), Josh Schmoyer (junior, 138), Nick Dicurcio (sophomore, 160), and Tyler Santangelo (eighth grade, 120).
“We have grown each year as a program,’’ Ehlers said. “My first year here we ended the season with nine kids. We now have 30 kids on the varsity roster and seven kids on the Modified Club. We have a lot of kids that worked really hard during the off-season by going to camps, outside clubs, playing other sports, and just working out in the weight room.’’
Most improved team
The Hambletonians had seven wrestlers place in the Section and won the OCIAA Division 2-B title last season. They won the Most Improved team award for Section 9 (Divisions 1 and 2).
“Like any year, I hope we can grow both on and off the mat,’’ Ehlers said. “Our first goal is to make sure they are focused on schoolwork. We want them to know they are student-athletes, and without academics they won’t be able to wrestle. Next is winning our Division for the third time in five years. There are more teams in the Division so we have to win each one in order to repeat. I feel that we should set goals high as far as the individual Section Championships at the end of the season and place seven or more in the top four again.
“Lastly, to grow as a program, we now have seven kids in our Modified Wrestling Club. We are allowing kids in middle school to practice with each other, help out with the varsity matches as managers and learn the sport in a town where baseball and basketball run the show.’’
Chester is scheduled to host Port Jervis on Dec. 18.
“I feel our team has a really good chance of doing good things both in the Section and Division,’’ Ehlers said. “We have seven teams in our Division, which creates more competition and makes each match that much more important. As individuals, we have great potential at many weight classes and feel like some kids can compete with the best in Section 9. Many of our guys went out on their own this off-season to tournaments, tried new ways of getting better and even participated in other sports.
“All seven teams (Ellenville, Tuxedo, Burke, Onteora, Fallsburg and Liberty/Eldred/Sullivan West and Chester) bring something different to the table. I feel like if we work hard and do the right things we can be atop the Division once again.’’
"I hope we can grow both on and off the mat,. Our first goal is to make sure they are focused on schoolwork. They are student-athletes, and without academics they won’t be able to wrestle. Next is winning our Division for the third time in five years." --Head Coach Jimmy Ehlers