It's wrestle whenever you can south of the Alps
Vicenza's Connor Smith, who finished atop the 132-pound class at a five-team wrestling meet Saturday at Aviano Air Base, Italy, tries to maneuver American Overseas School of Rome's Lorenzo Mencacci for a pin.
Stars and Stripes
AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — It’s often all about numbers during the DODDS-Europe wrestling season.
Coaching, natural talent and plenty of hard work are certainly factors. And those combine to create a few standout wrestlers who will be battling for titles at the European championships in February.
But until then, the teams with the ability to put the most wrestlers on the mat will usually come out on top.
Saturday marked the first meet of the season where teams could enter no more than two wrestlers in a single weight class. While that might have impact on Division I powers such as Patch and Ramstein, it had virtually no impact at a meet featuring the five wrestling programs in Italy.
“We just don’t have the numbers,” said Sigonella coach Gene Rinaldi, whose contingent was among the smallest at the meet. The Panthers didn’t have enough last week to even make the trip to Naples worth it.
So Daniel Vosler, a two-time placer at Europeans, and his teammates were wrestling for the first time. And since there were only two wrestlers in his normal weight class, Vosler moved up a weight to 113 pounds. He got more than enough competition there from Aviano’s Brandon Mowery, a transfer from Virginia, who scored a late pin of Vosler to take the weight class.
Naples senior Zack Cheek, who was fourth in Europe last year at 182 pounds, wrestled one time Saturday. He defeated Aviano’s Jacob Hichcock, the only competitor in his weight class.
“We’re not as fortunate as the big schools in Germany, who get to wrestle a lot more,” Cheek said following his victory.
He wrestles a lot in practice against fellow senior Bryran Pfirrmann, who won three times at 160 pounds Saturday.
“We have to put in a lot more effort at practice to make up for it,” Pfirrmann said.
The five schools combined to send 52 wrestlers to the mats Saturday, numbers similar to what Patch or Ramstein have on their own. Of course, combining the enrollments of the five schools produces a figure not much higher than Ramstein’s.
Naples Principal Duane Werner, who turned Würzburg into a powerhouse during a 14-year coaching stint at the now defunct school, said despite the low numbers, “there are some good kids out here. The numbers are obviously lower, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t some good wresting here.”
The numbers are actually up a bit at Vicenza, which has won the first two meets of the season in Italy. The Cougars took 17 wrestlers to Aviano and six won their weight classes: Alex Jogthong (120), Ethan Fullmer (126), Connor Smith (132), Ramsey Schroeder (138), Liam Manville (152) and William Pagan (170).
“We are building a program,” said first-year coach Kurt York. “I’ve been really impressed by the energy that our young guys are showing. And the commitment from our older guys in helping to bring them along.”
The five schools in Italy won’t wrestle again until Jan. 12. Ansbach, Vilseck and Hohenfels will make a rare trip south of the Alps to join them in Vicenza.
“That’ll be a great day of wrestling,” Aviano coach Robin Clement said. “It’ll give the kids some variety. They’ll have more matches. And a chance to see how they match up against other wrestlers before they go up to the European championships.”