The Greenwich High School wrestling team officially bid farewell to its seniors, and it’s 2011-12 season Sunday night at its annual awards banquet at Riverside Yacht Club. Despite having to deal with an array of injuries, the Cardinals finished a strong 14-8 during the regular season, including victories over Haddam-Killingworth (23-3), Darien (15-9) and Foran )20-11). They also won the Shelton Invitational Tournament, placed second in the John Chaco Duals, had a third-place finish in the Joe Sikorski FCIAC Tournament and took fourth at the Ridgefield Challenge. Here are the recipients of last night’s special awards.
Team MVP: Ryan Whittle - The senior co-captain established himself as one of the premier 171-pound wrestlers in the state. He won the Shelton Invitational Tournament and took home the first-place medal from the Shoreline Invitational Tournament in New Rochelle – the first Greenwich champion in that tournament since 2005. Whittle placed second at the FCIAC Championships, and was also the runner-up at the Class LL Tournament. Described as the “rock of the team,” by head coach George Albano, Whittle posted 35 victories on the season, winning 83 percent of his matches. He concluded his esteemed varsity career with more than 80 career wins.
Jim Fahy Award: Matt Diddel - A standout on the varsity team for three years, the senior co-captain’s biggest challenge came this winter when he had to overcome various injuries. Diddel met those challenges, placing third at the Ridgefield Challenge, third in the FCIAC Tournament and in the top eight at the Class LL meet. He registered more than 65 victories during his varsity career.
Donna Arnold Memorial Spirit Award: Max Kim - One of the hardest working wrestlers on the team, Kim finished his senior season with 20 victories, highlighted by a sixth-place finish in his ultra-competitive weight class at the FCIAC Championships.
Brad Wallace True Grit Toughness Award: Ryan Whittle
Rogowskey-Leonard Award: Alex Jarombek, Ryan Whittle
Scholar Athlete Award: Cameron Driscoll - The senior 145-pounder won the FCIAC title in his weight class and placed second at the Ridgefield Challenge. He sports a sparkling 3.73 GPA.
Coaches Award: Varsity team, Steven Vasquez; Junior Varsity, Daniel Gutman; Freshman team, Mickey Russell
Most Improved Wrestler: Varsity, Graham Perry (285-pound, 26 victories, 21 pins ); Junior Varsity, Ben Jones; Freshman, Chris Fischer
Rookie of the Year: Varsity, Alex Jarombek (35 wins); Junior Varsity, Dayqwon Dawes; Freshman, Justin Montier
Senior Nick Pennella also received an award for finishing fifth at the Shoreline Invitational Tournament and junior Brian Cronin, who is moving to the Midwest after the school year, received a plaque for his accomplishments.
Whittle, Diddel, Driscoll, Pennella, Perry, Vasquez, Kim and Carlos Daza are the seniors the Cardinals said goodbye to Sunday night. The Cardinals’ two new captains for the 2012-13 season were also announced Sunday. The two wrestlers who will lead the team next year are Mark Chien and Mike Gestal, both of whom produced stellar junior seasons.
The team also bid an emotional farewell to Jenn Degenhardt, who spent her last season as a member of the coaching staff after providing the squad with dedicated support for years.
Whittle, Kim and Diddel gave heartfelt speeches during the ceremony. Here’s some of what they had to say.
Whittle’s advice to next year’s group: “Just remember to aim high, or don’t bother setting whatever goal it is you have in mind. Because with hard work you will achieve anything on the mat. Anything as long as you want it bad enough.”
Diddel: “I have not only changed as a wrestler over the past four years, but also as a person. Wrestling has taught me that I never thought I would learn. Wrestling has turned me into the little boy I was freshman year into the man I am now.”
Kim: “When we say we love wrestling we truly mean it. As much as we are physically hurting sometimes on the mat, it’s all worth it when your arm is raised at the end of a match and when you place in a tournament.”
Head coach George Albano: “We consistently produce a roster full of hard-working, well-rounded, student athletes. Our 2011-12 roster was mixed with dedicated senior leaders and passionate underclassmen – each group dependent on the other for success.”
Albano thanked his wrestlers for making the season special, his assistant coaches (coach Chao, coach Tegano), the parents, his parents and his girlfriend Jenna Bartolo for their support throughout the season. I would like to thank coach Albano for inviting me to the banquet and for all of the help he’s given us at the Greenwich Time this season.
Pictured above left to right are: 2012-13 captain Mike Gestal, 2011-12 captain, Matt Diddel, 2011-12 captain Ryan Whittle, 2012-13 captain Mark Chien