Steve Tseperkas, who coaches East Hampton High School’s wrestling team, is reasonably sure, with the exception of 285 pounds, “and possibly one or two other holes,” that he can fill most of the 15 weight classes this season, though, because the Bonackers are very young, he doesn’t expect much when it comes to the win column.
Still, East Hampton, which lost eight seniors to graduation, Taylor Harned, Peter Johann, Cory Pawlukojc, and Kelly Kalbacher among them, has some interesting competitors this year as well, a group led by Mike Peralta, who, as a junior, was the sole underclassman from here to compete in the county tourney.
Peralta, who weighs in at 145, as he did last year, “will be our go-to guy,” Tseperkas said during a practice session Friday.
In the 2010 league tournament, Peralta defeated Rocky Point’s Matt Guerrisi in the quarterfinals, and, after getting pinned in the semis, wrestled back to third by decisioning Shoreham’s Joseph Bennett 6-3, thus avenging a loss by pin to Bennett in a dual meet.
Peralta went on to lose in the first round of the counties to Bellport’s John Rose. At the time, Tseperkas said that of East Hampton’s county matches that one “was the biggest heartbreaker. . . . Mike was up 7-2 near the end of the second period when Rose got a reversal and put him on his back. That made it 7-6 going into the third period. Mike rode the kid out until the final 10 seconds when Rose hit a switch to win 8-7.”
Peralta will get a chance to pay Rose back for that loss in the regular season, for East Hampton has moved up to League V with Islip, Bellport, Kings Park, Comsewogue, Huntington, Eastport-South Manor, and Harborfields. “We match up well with Harborfields,” Tseperkas said. “We’re wrestling them on Jan. 18, Senior Night.”
Section XI, he added, has made the lightest and the heaviest weights — 99 and 285 — which used to be optional as far as dual meet scoring went, mandatory this season. “They’ve also increased the poundage by a bit, which should help kids make weight.” This year’s weights, he said, are 99, 106, 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 145, 152, 160, 170, 182, 195, 220, and, as aforesaid, 285. They all go up by two more pounds on Christmas Day.
“We’ve got 33 kids as of now, seven of them are new and nine of them are seniors, though three of those seniors [Milton Farez, Garrett Severance, from Pierson, and Deyvis Alvarez] have never wrestled before.”
The seniors who have experience are Sawyer Bushman, at 120, Peralta, Christian Westergard, at 160, James Budd and Morgan Rojas, each at 170 for the moment, and Jacob Hands, at 182. Kevin Heim, a junior from Pierson who had “16 or 17 wins” last year, is also at 170 for the moment.
Moreover, said Tseperkas, who coached the junior varsity boys soccer team to an undefeated season this fall, “we’ve got four kids from soccer — Denis Espana [a sophomore], Nelson Arcila [a sophomore], Bryan Ordonez [a junior], and Esteban Valverde [a freshman]. Valverde wrestled in junior high, the others are new, so they’ll be on the jayvee, but they’re picking it up quick — they’re strong kids.”
Besides Peralta, Tseperkas is expecting Lucas Escobar, Bushman, and Budd to have good seasons as well. Bushman had 20-plus wins at 119 last winter and is expected to compete in the same class this time around. Escobar, a sophomore, went 26-6 at 106 pounds as a freshman.
Tseperkas had hopes that Escobar and Bushman could win county tournament berths last year, but both lost in the league meet’s quarterfinal round. Escobar was upset 6-5 by Mount Sinai’s John Shlonsky, a wrestler he’d defeated twice before, and Bushman was caught in a cradle hold 20 seconds into his quarterfinal match with Shoreham’s T.J. Kluber.
There’s a Kalbacher on this team as well, Colton, Kelly’s younger brother, who’s a ninth grader. He’ll probably wrestle at 126, said the coach. Kalbacher, Tseperkas added, had gone to “a 28-day wrestling camp at the University of Minnesota this summer.”
Tseperkas took six others to a weeklong summer camp at Cornell — Peralta, Escobar, Heim, Hands, Rojas, and Gabe Vargas.
The Frank (Sprig) Gardner tournament, named after the founder of collegiate-style wrestling, who began his career here and spent his retirement years here, is to be held at the high school on Dec. 10. “We’ll put all our varsity kids in it and some who wrestled in junior high last year who might wind up on the jayvee team,” said Tseperkas.
Besides East Hampton, the tournament’s teams will be Westhampton Beach, Riverhead, Hauppauge, Ward Melville, Bayport-Blue Point, Southampton, St. John the Baptist, and Smithtown Christian.