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Wrestling: St. Anthony's 2011 Preview

Friars hope to become first Catholic school to win a state Federation team title.

The challenge has been issued. It's done each afternoon at practice. And while the rest of the state will read these words and repeat them for extra motivation when the time comes,  St. Anthony's wrestling coach Tony Walters means no disrespect.

St. Anthony's has won back-to-back Nassau-Suffolk Catholic High Schools Athletic Association dual meet and tournament titles. The Friars captured a state CHSAA championship a year ago. But Walters and Co. are after an even bigger prize.

"Our goal is to win a New York State title and be the first Catholic high school team to do it – create history," Walters said.

The Friars finished eighth at the state Federation Division I tournament last February after seven wrestlers won state CHSAA titles (but none won out against public school competition). Walters returns five CHSAA champions. They are a year older, stronger and motivated. Walters sees to it.

"Do you believe?" is the theme for this season, printed on the backs of T-shirts.

"If you don't believe you don't belong," Walters said. "Believe what we're telling you and do it. It works."

Walters reminds his team there's nothing standing in the way of greatness this season. We'll see in February if the Friars can stay on message.

Last Season: 23-6 overall.

Coach: Tony Walters (16th year).

Key Wrestlers:

  • Grant Greene, senior, 125 pounds
  • Jimmy Morris, senior, 130 pounds
  • Jamel Hudson, junior, 135 pounds
  • Paul Alessandrini, senior, 189 pounds
  • Jon Desir, senior, heavyweight

Team Breakdown: Senior Grant Greene, who won a state Federation Division I title at 112 pounds in 2009, hopes to make his fifth straight state meet. He first qualified as an eighth grader at Cold Spring Harbor. Now the Northwestern-pound wants to make amends for losing 9-7 in OT to Huntington's Damon McQueen in the 119 final last season.

"I'll keep pushing the pace 'til the match is over," Greene said.

Senior Jimmy Morris, of Northport, won a state CHSAA title for the St. Anthony's wrestling team and went 39-2. But he didn't make weight at Federations and did not wrestle. Morris was third at the state Federation meet (103 pounds) in 2009. The lost opportunity fuels him. Morris has added 20 pounds of muscle in the last year and will be a force at 130.

"My sophomore year I came in third," Morris said. "So it was pretty bad to be there and not wrestle."

Junior Jamel Hudson won a state CHSAA title despite being ineligible until midway through the season after transferring from Bay Shore. He's expected to have a strong season at 135. Another state CHSAA champ, senior Paul Alessandrini, will wrestle at 189 after a strong performance at Junior Nationals.

Look for two football stars to dominate. Senior Jon Desir, a defending state CHSAA champ, enters the season as the top-ranked heavyweight in the state. He was a standout defensive tackle and is being recruited for both football and wrestling. Walters has a new addition in Louisiana state champ Dariyan Riley. He is nationally ranked at 171. Expects to make an impact after starring in the backfield for the 11-0 football team.

"We're going to blow a lot of minds," Hudson said.

Expectations: Chris Brienza, who finished sixth at the state Federation meet at 103, graduated. So did Brandon Meisner (sixth at 160). But so much talent returns that these Friars expect to be even better.

"I think we can win states easily this year," Greene said. "But that's not all I want to do. I want to put an exclamation point on it. I want every guy make all state. I want every single guy place at states. Then it's not a fluke. No one can say anything about us."

The new wrestling room is a game-changer. Opened in time for last season, the Friars went from a room big enough for six wrestling circles to a cavernous facility with 32 circles. Walters said they finally have a room to match their ambitious program.

"We have a balanced team," Walters said. "And the kids know what the goal is."

St. Anthony's has won the last two NSCHSAA dual meet and tournament titles. They Friars won the league tournament by 152 points. So this is their league to lose. The state CHSAA meet will provide a challenge. But the real goal is to push for a historic finish at the state Federation meet.

Key Meets:

  • Jan. 5: Kellenberg @ St. Anthony's, 4:30 p.m.
  • Jan. 19: St. John the Baptist @ St. Anthony's, 4:30 p.m.
  • Jan. 26: St. Anthony's @ Chaminade, 4:30 p.m.
  • Feb. 2: St. Anthony's @ Holy Trinity, 4:30 p.m.
  • Feb. 6: Nassau-Suffolk CHSAA Tournament @ Kellenberg

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