The wrestling room at Fenwick hasn't had much activity in the last couple of weeks, despite the start of the wrestling season.
It's not due to lack of interest. Most of Fenwick's grapplers were busy tearing up the gridiron for the football team. Even head coach Jerry Ruffino had been preoccupied. Ruffino coaches defensive backs for the football team, who lost 21-0 to Brother Rice in the Prep Bowl playoffs on Friday. Now, Ruffino insists, it's all about wrestling.
The good news is most of last year's team returns this year, including three State qualifiers in Nick Bertucci (135-pound weight class), Eric Dardanes (189), and Matt Harmon (160).
Harmon, a regional champ who wrestled to an outstanding record of 39-7 in 2003, and Dardanes, a regional and sectional champ, won two matches at State last year. Bertucci, who finished 38-4 last year, placed at State the year before.
"We have lots of experience returning back to this team," said Ruffino. "And a lot of the guys are going to be determined to surpass their marks from last year."
Kyle Hope returns at the 103-pound division. Hope went a perfect 28-0 as a sophomore. Others expected to make an impact this season include Zach Stafford (112), Pat Hanlon (119), Marty Erfort (125), Mike Cocco (130), Nick Marino (140), Matt Darley (145), Bill Barnhisal (171), Dan Kurtz (215), Carmen Curio (heavyweight) and Eric Gough, who finished 24-16 and was a regional champ in the 152-pound division last year.
Ruffino anticipates a slow start this year, but he said it shouldn't take too long for such inexperienced team to get going.
"The guys know the system, know the way we train. They've been through it before, so it won't take long to get into wrestling mode," he said. "Having the football season extended isn't a bad thing."
The Friars will go with a downsized lineup against Glenbard West today (Wednesday). They'll more than likely still be spread thin at the Barrington Invitational on Friday and Saturday.
One match in particular Ruffino said his team will be anxious for is a rematch against cross-town rival Oak Park and River Forest. The Huskies edged Fenwick by nearly three points in the team regional last year.
"We're still a little sore about that," said Ruffino. "We'll use it as a motivational tool."
In contrast to what OPRF head coach Mike Powell said regarding his team taking on Fenwick during the regular season, Ruffino said the two teams wouldn't meet during the regular season due to a scheduling conflict with OPRF.
"OPRF said they have finals the week we are available, so it will be the first time since 1992 we won't have the Village Cup," said Ruffino.
Powell said he was going to contact Ruffino and try to reschedule a match.
The Friars have won four straight Village Cup matches, including a 49-22 win last year.