New Oceanside wrestling coach Brian Schoenfelder wasn't left wondering for long.
When Christian Scarlata, behind on points, capped the Sailors' season-opening outing with a last-second pin to win the 189-pound final at the Battle at the Beach at Long Beach Dec. 4 – becoming Oceanside's first-ever champion at the highly touted tournament – it was clear the club Schoenfelder inherited still had the fire that had fueled last year’s breakout.
“It was just a thrilling match right out of the gate,” said Schoenfelder, formerly a five-year assistant coach at Oceanside, whose team scored a school-record 149.5 points to place fourth at BATB. “That early success told me that there hadn’t been any regression.”
Going 12-5 in Conference 1B dual meets, Oceanside last season seized its first league title since 2004, won a team championship at the Harold Ear Duals and saw nine of its wrestlers qualify for the Nassau Division 1 Championships.
All told, an impressive campaign, but early signs this season suggest it may have been only a prelude. In addition to Scarlata – whose separated shoulder, said Schoenfelder, will keep the senior sidelined until mid-January – Oceanside, sitting atop 1B at 3-0 (4-0 overall) in duals, has seen top-tier performance from all corners of its roster.
With pins of all four of his opponents, Sailors sophomore Jared Marine won the 172-pound title at the Frank Giampaolo Cyclone Tournament at South Side Dec. 17. Named No. 4 at 172 in the latest county rankings, Marine – who also won the Most Pins Least Time award at Giampaolo (4 in 5:28) – has gone 4-0 in duals with three pins. “Jared’s an absolute beast,” Schoenfelder said. “He’s very strong, with a very technical approach. He’s come into his own and now the sky’s the limit for him.”
Jake Strianese, the 110-pound runner-up at both BATB and Giampaolo, is 3-0 in duals with two pins for Oceanside, as is senior captain Andrew Cagno at 215, who finished third at BATB. “Jake’s one of the best wrestlers in the county,” Schoenfelder said of the sophomore ranked third in Nassau at 110. “He’s also a great example to all the young wrestlers in the room for how to approach and prepare for matches. . . . Andrew’s a kid whose hard work is starting to pay off. His strength is now on a par with the weight class he’s in. He’s a leader that all the kids respect.”
Juniors Ben Rivezzo (189 pounds) and Dan Gilmore (138 and 145) are 6-2 and 3-0 in duals for Oceanside respectively. Rivezzo – who has stepped in nicely to Scarlata’s slot – also placed fifth at Giampaolo, where sophomore Jesse Bittenbender (5-2 duals, 2 pins) finished fourth at 126. “We have two good 189-pounders, so Ben has done well with Christian injured,” said Schoenfelder. “Dan Gilmore’s a workhorse who’s really trying to have a good season for us. . . . Jesse’s still quite young but outstanding for his age, in a very competitive weight class.”
Added Schoenfelder: “This team is on the upswing. Last year wasn’t a one-off season; we want to keep building. And with all our young talent, this should be a top-five team in the county for years to come.”