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Thursday, October 2, 2014
Promising start for young Sailors
Jeff Wilson/Herald
Oceanside's Rocco Candela, top, has his sights set on winning a county championship at 120 pounds after back-to-back All-County campaigns.

After serving as an assistant wrestling coach at Oceanside for two seasons, Steve Candela has taken over the helm of an up-and-coming program headed by his son Rocco, a two-time All-County winner with aspirations of competing at the next level.

“I’ve been very encouraged by everyone’s progress in the first month,” coach Candela said. “We’ve got a large roster and are rebuilding with a lot of strong, young wrestlers.”

While the bulk of the lineup is comprised of sophomores and freshmen, the Sailors have four seniors to lead the way: Rocco Candela, Zach Stranberg, Andrew Mercadante and Andrew Rullo.

More big things are expected of Candela, who placed second in Nassau as a 96-pound sophomore and fourth in the county last season at 106. As a senior he’s competing at 113 pounds, and he broke out of the gate quickly with a second-place finish in the Bruins Cup Tournament in Baldwin and a victory in the Ralph Jansson Tournament hosted by Valley Stream North. He is ranked second in the weight class behind Long Beach’s Steven Sewkumar. “Rocco’s got a lot of weapons and the heart of a lion,” the coach said. “He’s very strong on his feet, and nobody can ride him out. He’s taken on a leadership role as well. He’s helping the younger guys along.”

The coach expects Stranberg and Mercadante to quality for the county tournament. Stranberg earned convincing victories in dual meet matches against Valley Stream Central and Chaminade, while Mercadante placed in both the Baldwin (fifth) and Valley Stream North (fourth) tournaments. “Andrew’s our best upper weight,” coach Candela said. “He’s off to a good start.” 

Rullo, who backs up talented sophomore Jarron Koretz at 132, brings a great work ethic to the room and someone the coach won’t hesitate to use in a match. Koretz, meanwhile, was a county qualifier as a freshman thanks to a combination of strength and aggressiveness. He was a finalist in the Valley Stream North Tournament and one of five Sailors to win a bout against Chaminade. “Jarron is looking to place in the county,” coach Candela said.

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