The Lawrence wrestling team has gone through some lean times in recent seasons and this year’s results so far would suggest the same. But after some strong individual efforts at a recent tournament and a program in place to nurture future wrestlers, there could soon be a light at the end of the tunnel.
Despite being outscored 209-28 in their first three matches, including two against Conference 4A foes, Golden Tornadoes third-year coach Seth Cook said has seen great strides being made in some of his grapplers and is optimistic that the program is on the right track.
“The past two years, we’ve had a huge improvement in the number of kids who came out,” Cook said.
Senior tri-captain Mohamed Alkaifi is one of the more consistent wrestlers on the team this season and is making a case for the county championships. Alfaifi, who usually wrestles in the 126-pound weight class, produced victories against Mineola and Lynbrook and had four more wins at the Herricks New Year’s Tournament on Jan. 6.
“He brings leadership to the program,” Cook said. “He is like the bright star that everybody follows. He’s a very good wrestler.”
Another wrestler to watch is junior tri-captain Nick Torre, who placed first at the Herricks Tournament in the 160-pound class and third at the Hicksville Invitational Tournament on Dec. 9, one day after picking up a pinfall win at Mineola. Torre wrestled in the 195-pound class last year and, according to Cook, needs to be more consistent to reach the next level.
“The Lynbrook match, he could have beat the kid, but he didn’t do it, and then he came back [at the Herricks tournament] and did much better,” Cook said. “I’m definitely trying to find more consistency from him.”
The team boasts eight wrestlers in each of the ninth and tenth grades and is already developing plenty of future stars. One is newcomer Axel Alfaro (99), who Cook described as a “strong young kid” and fellow freshman Yuri Martinez (285), who had two wins at Herricks. Sophomore Oscar Guevara (195) placed second at Herricks after finishing first at the same tournament last year.
The developing wrestlers and pipeline of youth is a result of a youth program launched by Cook last spring. Cook, who has coached wrestling for over 20 years, ran the latest session in late October and will conduct another following the JV wrestling season. It is open for anybody from ages third grade or older.
“It’s pretty much an open mat program where we invite anybody down,” he said. “It popularized the sport in the schools. That’s why we have so many kids.”
Cook hopes the program can push the roster to 30 wrestlers next season.
Volunteer coach Kevin George is also credited by Cook for helping to develop future prospects while honing the other grapplers’ mat skills.
“He’s been very helpful,” Cook said. “He’s a very good talker. He’s taught the kids a lot. He’s very good with the heavyweights.”