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East Meadow loaded with talent


East Meadow wrestling coach Vinny Romanotto began this season with a great problem. The Jets’ roster will feature 55 wrestlers – more than triple the amount he ended the season with three years ago.

“We’re able to fill a lineup,” the coach said, “Which is always great. Get it back to the way it used to be.”

And Romanotto would certainly know; he’s a 2001 graduate o f East Meadow who also wrestled. In fact, his entire coaching staff are East Meadow High School alumnus.

He credited assistant coach Terry Hohlman, who spearheaded a youth program that takes place at the high school after hours to nurture up-and-coming local wrestlers as early as fourth grade. Those wrestlers are now coming of age, Romanotto said, and sticking with the sport.

So far this season, the Jets have participated in two tournaments and one non-conference dual meet. They were victorious in the dual meet against Glen Cove, 53-31, a matchup that featured quality performances across the board, notably from two eighth graders, Matthew Rodriguez and Brady Hohlman, and Romanotto singled out the performance of sophomore John Tucker for holding his own against a tough Glen Cove opponent to help preserve the team victory.

On Dec. 13-14, the Jets participated in the annual Sprig Gardner tournament hosted by the Bellmore-Merrick district and crowned three champions: junior Anthony Gentile at 132 lbs., Rodriguez at 138 lbs., and junior Brian Lin at 182 lbs. Sophomore Nick Chimienti was also a finalist at 106 lbs. Overall, the team finished in third place in the tournament.

On Dec. 20, the Jets hosted Herricks for their first Conference 2A dual meet, an evenly matched opponent who Romanotto expects to give them a good fight.

Chimienti and Gentile are the Jets’ two senior captains – and just two of five seniors on the squad. “They’re like the quieter captains who lead by example,” their coach said. “They’re doing a good job and there’s sort of a domino effect this year in terms of working hard and putting a little more in at practice.”

Romanotto also highlighted junior Jack Coffey (160 lbs.), junior Salenis Lopez (170 lbs.), senior Anthony Monniello (120 lbs.) as wrestlers who will be big part of the team this year. He credited junior Mark Aguirre for reaching an ambitious goal to drop a full weight class at the start of the season to 220 pounds to create better matchups for the team. “He worked hard to get down to that weight,” Romanotto said.

Looking ahead, Romanotto said that buying into the coaching staff, and forming a cohesive unit will be big factors in their success.

“Last year we did not make playoffs,” he said. “We had some holes. This year, I’d like to do well in conference, and win a match or two in the playoffs. We haven’t done it in a while. With the team we have, with the right matchups, I feel we can do that. They just have to buy into it.”