Pounds will lead large Naples contingent over the Alps
Stars and Stripes February 3, 2024
NAPLES, Italy — Saturday’s DODEA Southern Europe wrestling sectionals was all about preparation for Naples senior Sam Pounds.
Every match was a chance to get better, perfect moves and ready himself for next week’s DODEA Europe wrestling championships in Wiesbaden, said Pounds, who beat Aviano’s Jevan Smith to come in first Saturday in his 150-pound weight class. He remains undefeated this season.
In a repeat of last week’s final match at Vicenza, Smith came in second after Pounds. Vicenza’s Austin Perry and Aviano’s Nicholas Portan finished third and fourth, respectively, in the same weight class.
“For championships, the expectation is to win,” said Pounds, who hopes to cap his senior year with his second straight European title. “I’m working hard. I’m taking my matches seriously, using them for practice and then come Euro time, it’s do or die.”
But while Pounds easily moved forward to next week’s championships, fellow Wildcat Breydon Hoffstatter likely saw the end of his season with an arm injury that knocked him out of the competition during his third match. Hoffstatter’s injuries, which included a bloodied nose, ended the match and forced a more than 20-minute delay while paramedics attended to him.
The 175-pound senior, who won two previous matches earlier in the day, had hoped to win his weight class and “wrestle his heart out” in Wiesbaden.
Rota’s Jonathan King, a 175-pound freshman who’s been besting older, more experienced competitors, finished first followed by Tyler Mellon of Aviano and Giorigi Imerlishvili of Ankara. Vicenza’s Sebastian Radler was fourth.
But Hoffstatter’s brother, Treyvon, took second in the 215-pound weight class behind Vicenza’s Arthur Shore, with both advancing to the championships. Braedyn Herrera, also of Naples, finished third with Ankara’s Mahammad Naghizade coming in fourth in the same weight class.
Naghizade was among four Ankara wrestlers to finish fourth in their respective weight classes, meaning they will have to rely on wild card selections to get spots in the finals. But in addition to Imerlishvili, 120-pounder Caleb Figueroa, who also finished third, will definitely go to Wiesbaden next week.
The Trojans brought six high school wrestlers to the sectionals. Coach Tony Peters said it’s the first time the school has fielded a team since 2011.
“For many people here it’s the first time they’ve seen any Ankara team in any sport at any DODEA event in a very long time,” he said. “We’re super proud to be here.”
For Naples coach Vito Vittuli, seeing at least 16 Wildcats get to next week’s finals was rewarding — among them Pounds’ sister Audrey who finished third in the 144-pound weight class and 157-pounder Kyson Fromm, who came in second in his class.
The goal will be to see as many of them medal as possible, he said.
“I’d like to see eight of our kids get there [on the podium],” Vittuli said. “I think we can. We have a really talented team and hardworking kids.”