Zephyr wrestlers look to keep getting better
The Zephyr wrestling team’s holiday break featured some grueling competition as they appeared in two of the area’s toughest tournaments that should help prepare them for the rugged battles ahead in 2020.
First on the holiday wrestling stop was the Beast of The East which ran from Dec. 21-22 at the Carpenter Center in Newark, Delaware.
The event featured 106 teams, and is arguably the premier scholastic tourney in the country.
Xavier Arner and Kai Clark both won their opening matches in the championship round, with Arner pinning Dan Tighe from Don Bosco Prep in 3:07. In his next bout, Arner defeated No. 2 seed Matt Vulakh from Pope John Paul II, scoring a 5-1 victory. His next stop was a match against Clayton Gabrielson from McDonogh School, but his march through the championship ended, losing 3-0.
Arner’s next match in the consolation round pitted him against Patrick Jordan of New Kent. Arner lost a 5-2 decision, ending his bid for a top-eight finish.
Clark won his championship round against Jarrad Southern of Sun Valley, pinning him in 1:08. After getting upended 15-5 in the second round by Saucon Valley’s Matthew Arciuolo, Clark pinned Joel Friel in round two of the consolations. His advancement through the bracket was halted by Gettysburg’s Nathan Ridgley who won in sudden victory, 3-1.
Wilfred Jiminez was victorious in his round one consolation match at 106, pinning Henry Wilkinson of Hunterdon Central in 3:38. At 220, Randy Okungu was victorious in the second round of the consolations, defeating Nikko Langlois 5-3.
Whitehall finished the Beast in the 81st spot with 17 points. Blair Academy won the event with 239.5 points.
At the Bethlehem Holiday Classic held Dec. 28-29, Whitehall finished 19th among the 31 participants.
They had multiple first round winners as Jimenez, Johnny Colon, Arner, Tyler Cunningham, Clark, Melquan Warren and Okungu each scored victories.
Jimenez, Cunningham and Clark each advanced to round three of the championship bracket by winning their bouts in round two. Jimenez won by injury default, while Cunningham decisioned Matt Fritz of Wissahickon 4-3, while Clark won in sudden victory (9-7) over Quakertown’s Kyle Goodwin.
Arner’s journey through the consolation round produced four wins, ending in a 3-0 loss to Spring Ford’s Quinn Tobin. Arner wound up placing sixth in the tourney.
Clark also placed sixth. He lasted until the championship semifinals, losing to Council Rock South’s Matt Colajezzi, 6-0. That put him in the fifth-sixth match where he was defeated by Colden Dorfman of Shenendehowa, 8-3.
Head coach Tim Cunningham said that they wrestle in these tournaments to sharpen their skills against elite competition.
“We enter these top tournaments in the country and wrestle the top teams in the state for a reason, there is no other way to get better than wrestling the best,” said Cunningham. “We do not just want our guys or our team to have a great or winning record by having an easy schedule.
“We are constantly finding ways to improve our schedule and challenge our wrestlers to compete with the best. This schedule is the only way we can gauge where we are at and what we need to get where we want to be at the end of the season.”
The tourney highlights areas that need to be addressed and that will be the focus moving forward.
“Right now we have a lot of work ahead of us but the hard work and competitiveness that we expect from our wrestlers and the tough competition builds character which will take them a lot farther in life than wins and losses,” said Cunningham.
It’s not only the physical nature of the sport that allows one to succeed, but the ability to be mentally strong to overcome whatever comes their way.
“As a team, we need to continue to work on our physical and mental toughness as well as the belief that we need to improve every day through hard work and earning everything we get as a team and as individuals,” said Cunningham.
The tourneys were a good experience for the Zephs. They competed at a high level against some of the best grapplers in the state and country.
“The entire team has improved and is learning what it takes to compete with the best,” said Cunningham. “No shortcuts to success just good old fashion hard work.”