Last season was somewhat of a roller coaster ride for Baldwin’s wrestling program, but the Bruins closed on the upswing for coach Jim Murphy, who feels big things could be in store come February.
“We had a really good first round at last year’s county tournament,” said Murphy, whose team had to navigate a difficult qualifier that included Long Beach, Lynbrook, Bethpage and Hewlett. “Almost everyone returned and we’ve got a strong ninth-grade crew,” he added. “The program is in a good position. We’ve got the youth program feeding the middle school, and the middle school feeding the high school. It’s what you need to be successful.”
Of Baldwin’s highest finishers in last year’s county qualifier, three returned. Juniors Paul Wehr and Matthew Kong, and senior Aberham Mitchel are all looking to take the next step and achieve All-County status. To do so, they must finish in the top six of their respective weight classes.
For the 120-pound Mitchell, as Murphy pointed out, it’s his last crack. Mitchel had one win on the big stage at Hofstra last February and is off to a solid start this season with a championship in the Valley Stream South Tournament and runner-up finish in the Plainedge Tournament in December. “He’s got skill and hopefully a lot of motivation since it’s his last chance to place high at counties,” Murphy said.
Wehr (113) has a tremendous background in Judo that’s translated to a good deal of wrestling success, the coach noted. “Paul is wrestling really well out of the gate,” Murphy said. “He has a bunch of experience and put in a lot of work during the offseason. He’s going to be All-County in my opinion. But it’s going to come down to which kids want it the most in February.”
Kong won the VSS tourney, helping the Bruins to the team title, and took second in the Sayville Tournament. He’s expected to be in the All-County mix at 126. “Matt does everything that’s asked of him and keeps improving,” Murphy said.
Junior Jahlil Treasure enjoyed a big finish last winter, including 10 consecutive victories, and could make a lot of noise at 138 after getting a taste of the county tournament. “He’s off to a bit of an inconsistent start, but he’s a hard worker and he’ll get it going,” Murphy said.
Senior Marc Castel (220) won the VSS and Plainedge events and will lead the team’s upper weights along with juniors Ismael Mendez (285) and Liam Melvin (195.) Senior Kylen Dickens (132) is also looking to pick up where he left off last season.
With 29 freshmen in the fold, including some coming off undefeated middle school campaigns like Kalil Cuffe, Jendy Rodriguez and Jelani Dowe, Murphy said he’ll pick his spots when and where to use them in dual meets. The Bruins have a challenging road with Long Beach and East Meadow among its conference rivals. “We’ve got our work cut out,” Murphy said.
The Bruins will host a 10-team tournament on Jan. 13. The visitors include Locust Valley, the defending Nassau Division II champs, Kennedy and Calhoun.