SOMERS, N.Y.-Ron DiSanto set a goal to finish in the top 10 at the Division 1 wrestling sectionals. After not having any wrestlers place last season, some may have considered it a lofty goal.
But the fourth-year Somers coach had faith in his team and the Tuskers came away with a ninth-place finish and five all-section wrestlers.
The ninth-place team showing was the highest finish since 2012 for Somers.
“It was a great feeling to reach our goal,” DiSanto said. “Everything fell into place almost perfectly, which is very difficult because crazy things always happen at sectionals. Especially after dealing with the adversity we’ve faced the last few weeks with lingering injuries and sicknesses. These kids are warriors and I couldn’t be more proud.”
Sophomore Matt Kelly (195 pounds) and senior Frank Celli (138) led the way with a pair of third-place finishes. Senior Sean Freebern was fourth at 220 pounds. Matt Russo took fifth at 99 pounds and Antonio Vieira was sixth at 170.
“The key is belief and hard work,” DiSanto said of Somers’ turnaround season. “It all starts in the mind, by having confidence as well as goals and a purpose. Then the only way to turn those goals into reality is committing to putting in the hard work and training smart. It is essential to have a group of kids that buy into the history of the program, appreciate the sport and are willing to make sacrifices.”
Kelly made it to the finals before falling 10-2 to East Ramapo’s Jhordyn Innocent. He won his next match and then bested Arlington’s Gabe Duden, 13-6, for third place.
“It was really great to see the strides Matt continues to take in his career,” DiSanto said. “It was his first time qualifying in sectionals, and as a sophomore in an upper weight, to take third is extraordinary. Due to his work ethic in the off-season, he improves so much year by year. He is on pace to be a contender not only for a section championship but for a state title in his future.”
Celli, the seventh seed, lost in the opening round of sectionals on Feb. 10 at Sleepy Hollow. He wrestled back and won five straight matches to take third the next day at Clarkstown South.
“Frank’s return to Somers had a huge impact on our team this season,” DiSanto said of Celli, who transferred back to Somers from Georgia for his senior year. “He had a surprise loss in the first round. It was a tough pill for all of us to swallow, but he was resilient and gritty the rest of the tournament. He came all the way back to take third, which is rare for kids who lose in the first round. He beat really tough opponents along the way, showing a lot of heart and mental toughness.”
Freebern pinned his way to the semifinals, but was pinned by New Rochelle’s Aidan Lilly. He won his next match by pinfall but fell to Mahopac’s Mike Rivera, 5-4, to take fourth.
“Sean was really close to placing last year, so he was determined to get it this year,” DiSanto said. “His leadership as captain for the last two years has been really valuable to the program. He sets a great example for the kids on the team as well as our youth kids. He had a great senior season to cap off his career.”
Russo defeated Carmel’s Abby Duke, 2-0, to finish fifth.
“Matt had a big breakout season,” DiSanto said. “He was able to finish strong at sectionals by winning close, hard-fought matches.”
The third-seeded Vieira made it to the semifinals, dominating his matches with pins in the first minutes on day one. He struggled on the second day, however, losing three matches to finish sixth.
After missing his junior season due to injury, DiSanto was proud of Vieira’s performance.
“Antonio amazes me,” the coach said. “To be an all-state football player as well as an all-section wrestler is amazing. He’s a gifted athlete and has unbelievable wrestling instincts. It’s even more impressive that he only began wrestling as a freshman and didn’t even wrestle his junior year.”
Somers loses some key seniors, who helped put the program back on the map, to graduation. They include Freebern, Vieira, Celli, Eric Giancaspro and Nick Fiore. DiSanto said they are the “pioneers of this new era of Somers wrestling.”
“I am going to miss them a lot but we made a lot of memories together and I will always consider them family,” DiSanto said. “As freshman, in my first year coaching, they bought in to my idea of bringing back the tradition and culture of Somers wrestling. When they were younger, many of them were asked to step into varsity. They experienced a lot of growing pains, but that experience paid off as they got older. I appreciate them for trusting me more than words can explain. By the time they were seniors, they were ready for anything that was thrown at them.”