Fourteen county qualifying wrestlers return this winter for Baldwin – which finished 3-3 last year in Conference 2A, 6-8 overall.
All-Conference seniors Matthew Kong, Jahlil Treasure, and Paul Wehr look to make a return to Hofstra, leading an ascendant Bruins squad that seventh-year head coach Jim Murphy rates as among the best he’s coached.
“I’m real excited about the direction the program is going,” said Murphy, whose club began its 2A season with a win at home against South Side/East Rockaway on Dec. 19. “Last year we had some impressive wrestlers, and this year they’re back even stronger,” he added. “We get better and better every year.”
Moving up a weight class, Kong – who went 11-1 in the regular season at 126 – begins his fourth year as a starter ranked sixth in Nassau at 132. “Matt Kong is someone we’re always very excited by,” Murphy said. “He’s got a great technique, he’s a tough wrestler, and he always gives a great effort.”
Treasure (10-3 at 132) moves to the 145 class, in which he’s ranked No. 4 in the county. “Jahlil Treasure is a phenomenal athlete,” Murphy said. “He’s very dedicated to his craft. He got stronger over the offseason and really upped his game. I expect him to continue winning.”
Wehr went 9-3 last year at 113, and will start at 120 for the Bruins. “Paul Wehr is a real smart kid and he really progressed over the summer,” Murphy said. “He gets better every time he gets on the mat. I’m confident he’ll do well in the county tournament.”
Sophomores Kalil Cuffe and Jelani Dowe are the Bruins’ next wave at 152. Each got varsity seasoning last year (Cuffe was 4-9, Dowe 0-2) and had a productive offseason. “Kalil did a lot of wrestling apart from the team and a lot of workouts,” Murphy said. “He has really taken a step up. Jelani put in a ton of work too. He’s a leader in practice and in the weight room, and he has been wrestling real tough.”
Two more youngsters on the radar at Baldwin are first-year varsity freshmen starters Stanley Zapata (126) and Isaiah Blemur (106). “Stanley has been wrestling real good,” Murphy said. “I’m real excited about him. Isiah has gotten a lot of good work in individual matches. He’s been very tough.”
Murphy gave praise to Baldwin’s Police Athletic League, saying the PAL youth wrestling program has been a primary feeder for the Bruins. “These kids have come up through the PAL program and they’re well-developed as wrestlers,” Murphy said. “We’ve worked with these kids since they were young and now they’re starting to come through. They make it to the varsity level and they see some friendly faces.”
The coach added: “All the kids are really working hard and I’m excited to see how it’s going to pan out at the end of year. The way the team is developing, things are starting to pay off. Soon we should be competitive with any of the top teams of the county.”