Zephs building strong foundation
Whitehall will hit the mat this season with a strong contingent of returning grapplers, and that foundation will be their guiding force this season.
Another guiding force will be the implementation of a vision statement and core values, something that head coach Tim Cunningham decided to roll out this season. He said that their first core value will be integrity.
“We’re hoping that the seniors can be the first ones to follow through the system that we’re going through, and lead by example,” said Cunningham. “It’s more important than even winning and losing.”
Cunningham said that after coaching for 30 years, it’s that “next thing” which he wants to incorporate into the program. He wants to infuse those ideas and those methods into practice and develop them. He said that it goes beyond just speaking about these values, but applying them in all they do.
He has plenty of upperclassmen to lead that process. With seniors Wilfred Jimenez (20-9), Sean Cunningham (15-12), Kai Clark (20-7), Randy Okungo, Tim Bisono, Michael Zuniga and Izak Bright (19-12), the Zephyrs have plenty of experience.
“We’re hoping they can step it up as leaders in the program,” said Cunningham. “It’s a pretty good crew and now they need to lead by example.”
That’s buttressed by an equally strong returning group of underclassmen that features, Xavier Arner, Tyler Cunningham, Aiden Toussaint, and Johnny Colon.
Arner (24-8), Tyler Cunningham (26-7), and Colon (19-9), racked up a lot of wins last year. Cunningham said that they showed a lot of promise, and while still just sophomores, he’s eager to see how they’ll fare with a season of varsity experience under their belts.
“We’re looking forward to seeing how much progress they made from last year to this year,” said Cunningham.
They were among the best performers all year, and give the Zephs a formidable trio in their lightweights.
“Let’s see if they can take it to that next step with the offseason training,” said Cunningham. “I’m hoping that it pays off.”
He would like to see them break their District XI Regional qualifier drought, and hopes that they will lead the way in snapping that cycle. That list of breakthrough candidates also includes their seniors, a group that understands the rigors of postseason wresting in District 11.
Bright is candidate who can certainly make a strong run when the tournament rolls around. He won two district matches at 220 last year, and provides them an anchor in the upper weights. He’ll be joined in that upper weight class by newcomers Melquan Warren and Josef Grohl, both freshmen.
Sean Cunningham, Toussaint and Clark will give the Zephs a solid presence in their middleweights, and that will be supported by the presence of freshmen Nathan Mendez and Hudson Saylor.
The Zephs also feature junior Zack Beblavy, sophomores Ryan Shepard, Mike Hernandez, Yousof Abdelaal and Rasheem McFall. Freshmen contributors will be Chandler Romain and Dan Latorre.
The Zephs finished 12-8 last season. Cunningham said that he sees a balanced team that still has some holes. Still, they have a seasoned roster that will provide a good base for another successful season.
They begin the season on Dec. 11 versus Pocono Mountain East.