STRATFORD—Stratford High wrestling coach Dan German knows what he can do when he has a wrestler for four years.
Just last winter his program produced a Class M champion and a wrestler who finished sixth.
And that was from a team that finished with less than 10 wrestlers.
This year, German and the Red Devils boast a roster of 15 grapplers, but only two have multiple years of experience, so Stratford is young and looking to build toward the postseason.
“We only have two guys back, but we were a small team last year,” German said. “I think we only had seven kids. This year, if we all show up, we have 15, so that’s quite a bit better.”
A year ago, Sergio Ferreira won the Class M heavyweight championship and placed second at the State Open meet. At 195 pounds, Emmanual Sainville placed sixth in Class M.
Both graduated, but each wrestler showed what can happen in four years.
“When you get somebody for four years, you can do a lot with them,” German said.
Keeping wrestlers for four years is oftentimes another issue for a program that doesn’t have a feeder system that is building players.
“Every year is different,” the seventh-year Stratford coach said. “A lot of these kids are first-year wrestlers, so you never know. They try it for a year and might not come back, or don’t want to work that hard.”
Building a championship-caliber wrestler like Ferreira and Sainville takes hard work.
“It’s a lot of work and it’s hard work,” German said.
There are two veteran wrestlers back for Stratford this winter, including the team’s only senior—Tanner Mitchell, a captain, at 126 pounds.
“He’s a tough kid,” German said. “He should do really well.”
Junior Sean Meisel, at 120 pounds, is the Red Devils other captain this winter.
Junior Nicholas Cuevas had a year of wrestling at Weston before transferring, too.
Also on the roster are: juniors D’aquin Ello and Brady Havee; sophomores Anouar Agbere, Imad Fagrouch, Jacob Halsted, Peter Mancero, Drillon Nasufi and Tahjir Ricks-Burgos; and freshmen Misaell Diaz, Michael Koda, Joshua Kydes and Hayden Roberts.
“I think all the kids that are wrestling are pretty good,” German said. “They could be really good if they stick with it.”
German said it doesn’t take a lot to find the basis for a good wrestler.
“They just have to have some drive, some natural ability,” German said. “They have to be coachable, and willing to put in the time to get in shape, eat right, all that stuff. Just pay attention and learn, show up to all the practices, learn. It’s a lot of little things they have to put together.”
The goal is to get the young team ready for the postseason.
“We want to just get better every week, which they are,” German said. “It’s all about preparing them for the end of the year tournaments.”
And, for the wrestlers who stick around for four years, those end-of-the-year tournaments can produce some great finishes.