“It’s much different than the last three, four years,” Nick Fredericks, coach of Red Hook’s varsity wrestling program, told The Observer of the upcoming season. “We definitely had to rebuild the team, having graduated nine seniors from last year. There was a lot of recruiting and pulling kids up from the modified – we have about 26 wrestlers.”
The coaching has been a little more strenuous, Fredericks said, because he’s working with several underclassmen and rookie wrestlers. But he’s not too concerned: his team has looked good in the 20-odd days of preaseason practice leading up to the Kingston Duals.
“The rebuilding process is really just getting back to basics,” said Fredericks. “We’ve got a few first-year guys, who may be a little older, and they’re learning new things right now. We’ll add more and more things as the season goes on and we get near the tournament.”
2012-13 was a good season for the Raiders. Red Hook saw three wrestlers, one of whom graduated, grab weight-class titles at the Section 9, Division 2 championship, and saw those same grapplers throw down in the state tournament in Albany. Matt Rauch was the only one of the state-seeded wrestlers to make a real splash, going 2-2 in the tournament. Fredericks said that this season may be the one for Rauch.
“He’s shooting for another section championship and hoping to place in states,” said Fredericks. “His chances are very good. Right now he’s at the same weight class he was last year, he does his research, and he knows what it takes to make it through the state tournament.”
“My personal goal is to try to get back to state competition this year. There’s a lot of tough competition, like in the eastern state, but I’m going to try to get on that podium at states,” Rauch told The Observer at the Kingston Duals. He will be wrestling at 126.
Red’s other returning senior, Ben Zitz, may be in for a serious season too, according to Fredericks. Zitz, wrestling at 220, competes in a division that isn’t terribly glutted, and with his years of experience is likely to make some noise.
“I think this year’s going to be good. It’s senior year, it’s like with football: you’ve really got to do it. In our Section, it’s tough competition this year,” Zitz told the Observer at the Kingston Duals. “I’m out to win Sections. There’s no one out there — no one’s going to stop me.”
“I think he’ll look good. This is his year,” Fredericks added.
One interesting get for Red Hook wrestling is 8th grader Tristan Schiafo. Fredericks and company recruited him for varsity after a solid modified football season, and couldn’t be happier with the work that he’s put into the wrestling preseason.
“He’s got a lot of talent, a lot of potential,” said Fredericks.
Also looking to make a splash will be freshman Taylor Benson, one of the Raiders who made it into the state tournament in 2013. Benson wrestled in 2012-13 in the 99-lb division.
Red Hook grapples in a pretty egalitarian division, in which most teams send a wrestler or two deep into the postseason. Fredericks believes that come the end of the season it will be Highland, New Paltz, Onteora, and Red Hook contending for the top spot. The Raiders will be the top contender coming into the season, having taken the 2013 Section 9, Division II crown and held on to the core of their team coming into the season.
Red was rusty at the Kingston Duals, Kingston High School’s annual early-season mega-meet, on Dec. 8. The team lost 40-31 to Rondout Valley, 65-12 to North Rockland, 69-6 to Saugerties, and 57-15 to Kingston. Rauch, however, won out in the tournament. Zitz went 3-2.
The team is looking forward to its first triangular meet on Dec. 18 at Onteora, against division opponents Onteora and Highland, at 5pm. The first Red Hook home meet is against Ellenville on Jan. 8 at 6pm at Linden Avenue Middle School.