Wrestling: Program building starts from the top

Show them what right looks like.

It is a simple sentence that Trumbull High wrestling coach Charlie Anderson imparts to his veterans at the first day of practice.

Them, refers to freshmen or first-year athletes to the program.

Right, in wrestling-speak, means going about your business with a sense of duty to one’s self and to teammates.

All has been right of late for the sixth-ranked Eagles, who will bring a 23-2 record into this Saturday’s Portland Challenge.

Trumbull placed 5th in Class LL in 2015, 4th in 2016 and 5th a year ago. Each season the Eagles have posted seven place winners.

“Freshmen are the most important people on the team from a program standpoint,” Anderson said. “We need to show them what’s right in the wrestling room. There is no sense of entitlement. At times, we will split up the new wrestlers and match them with the veterans. This isn’t to embarrass; its a teaching tool.”

Senior captain Brett Nutter knows first hand how powerful a tool it can be.

“I’ve been wrestling since first grade,” said 195-pounder Nutter, who placed third in Class LL and sixth at the State Open in the 182-pound division as a junior. “It wasn’t until my freshmen year that I fully committed. To see what those seniors on the team did each day made me want to do the same.

“It was a strong class of seniors with Steve Briganti, Cross Cannone and Joe Ryan, who was kind of a role model. Seniors teaching freshmen keeps the program going.”

The lesson has carried over.

“We had ten seniors on last year’s team and everyone had the same work ethic,” said Nutter, 21-1 on the year. “The difference this year as a senior captain is that I have to be the leader. Last season, I let the other guys do it. Now I’m the guy. Fortunately, I have a great group of juniors to help show the way.”

Matt Ryan and Joe Palmieri lead that list.

Ryan, wrestling at 138 pounds, placed 1st in Class LL and was 6th at Opens as a sophomore.

Palmieri was 6th at Opens at 195 pounds.

“Joe is my partner at practice,” Nutter said. “It helps to go against someone big and strong. The kids learn that. They get better faster and that is an advantage.”

Nutter has put in the time toward that end in the offseason.

“I’ve thrown myself into it full time,” he said. “To be as good as you can be, you have to work all aspects. Being only strong isn’t enough, being only quick isn’t enough. A group of us went to Fargo, North Dakota. Another five of us went to Edinboro, Pennsylvania for a training camp. It was a two-hour drive and my dad John took me.”

That’s the other part of wrestling that Nutter and his teammates embrace.

“It is about the parents, not just your own but the alumni parents who come to our matches,” Nutter said. “To be a program you have to be a community.”

At Trumbull High, that begins freshman year where the Eagles are 11 strong.

Roundup: Trumbull took part in the Cougars Duals on Saturday, winning four decisions at Haddam-Killingworth High. The Eagles (23-2) defeated Darien 75-0, Haddam-Killingworth 60-24, New Fairfield 63-12, Bunnell High 72-6 and Guilford 42-27. Trumbull led highly-regarded Guilford, 24-18, before winning 4-of-6 bouts to win the match. Jonathan Kocak (7-5 decision at 126 pounds), David Castaldo (6-0 decision at 132), Matt Ryan (3:36 pin at 138) and Gabe LaGuardia (1:58 pin at 160) closed out the victory. Posting wins for the Eagles to open the match were Webster Williams (2:33 pin at 170), Joe Palmieri (9-8 decision at 182) and team captain Brett Nutter (1-0 decision at 195). Guilford tied it at 12 with a win by forfeit and a pin in the heavyweight division. Jack Ryan put the Eagles back in front with a 25-second fall at 106 pounds. Brandon Neri-Jacobs needed only 41 seconds to pin at 113 and Trumbull led 24-12.

Trumbull was strong throughout the lineup. Jack Ryan (106), Neri-Jacobs (113) and Castaldo each went 4-0 with three wins by fall. Kosak, Williams, Nutter and Palmieri each won four matches, two by pin.