Long Beach coach Ray Adams returned just three wrestlers to the starting lineup, marking the greatest turnover the team has endured in his 17-year tenure, but it didn’t change his approach.
“I didn’t modify the schedule because of our inexperience,” Adams said. “We’re still going against the toughest competition we could find. Some of the guys might take some lumps along the way, but it’s a long-term plan.”
The Marines graduated 12 starters, including standouts Dylan Palacio, Mark Raghunandan and Krishna Sewkumar, after finishing runner-up to Wantagh for the Nassau County team championship last season. Adding to the challenge was the loss of most equipment and everything uniform-related due to Hurricane Sandy.
“We lost our practice room and just about everything else,” Adams said. “We practiced at Calhoun for a while, and now we’re in our high school cafeteria using the few mats that were spared by the storm.”
The annual Battle at the Beach Tournament was graciously hosted by Lynbrook, Adams noted, to open the season, and Long Beach placed fifth in the 17-team event. Steven Sewkumar (113 pounds) and Zamarr Allen (195), two seniors Adams is counting heavily on to lead the way, reached the finals in their respective weight class, and senior Joe Sweeney took third at 138.
A county championship is on Sewkumar’s radar after he placed second in Nassau at 99 pounds last season. He won the Bruins Cup Tournament in Baldwin in December and earned Most Outstanding Wrestler honors in the process. “He’s ranked first at 113 and has a legitimate shot to go all the way,” Adams said. “He knows how hard he’ll have to work to make it happen.”
Sewkumar was also third in the Grapple at the Garden Tournament last month when Long Beach was one of 37 high school teams to compete alongside some of the nation’s top collegiate programs at Madison Square Garden. “It was an unbelievable experience,” Adams said.
Allen, who finished second in Baldwin and seventh at MSG, will play a key role in dual meets, Adams said, and is an All-County candidate after winning a match at last year’s countywide event.
Junior Jaemen Connelly is looking to pick up where he left off last winter when he placed third in the county at 99 pounds. He’ll join Sewkumar at 113 this season, and both will likely compete at a higher weight class at some point during the dual meet season.
Eighth-grader Matt Maquet and freshman Cain Tagliagambe have impressed at 99 already. Maquet won the Bruins Cup Tournament and was second at MSG, while Tagliagambe earned fourth at the Battle at the Beach.
Another eighth-grader, Charlie Spada, leads the depth chart at 106. The coach has more than one option at many other weights, including 120, 126, 132, and 182. The upper weights are led by Allen, senior Walter Ulloa (220) and junior Juan Melvin-Sorto (285.)
“We’re young, but I’m hoping we can challenge for the conference title,” Adams said.