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Wrestling: Big shoes to fill on rosters, coaching staffs

Posted Thursday, November 15, 2012 by V. Mercogliano
 Wrestling: Big shoes to fill on rosters, coaching staffsWrestling: Big shoes to fill on rosters, coaching staffs

There was a presence missing from the Somers wrestling room on Wednesday, and no matter what was said or done, it was clear that the lingering absence was going to take some getting used to.

"It feels a lot different," said defending state champion Dylan Realbuto, the younger brother of three-time state champ Brian Realbuto. "He was the leader of the team the past couple of years. He was the face of Somers wrestling. It's weird not having someone to look over your shoulder and make sure you're doing the right thing."

On the very first day of practices across Section 1, a changing of the guard resonated throughout several proud wrestling rooms. Some very big names that have been prominent figures in the area in recent seasons have departed -- most notably Section 1's all-time winningest wrestler Brian Realbuto, and Section 1's all-time winningest coach, Joe Amuso of Fox Lane.

"It's going to be really hard," Somers senior Mark Lasar said. "Because (Realbuto) left huge shoes to fill."

Not only are Realbuto and Amuso out of the picture, but there are many teams looking to fill voids in both their lineups and their coaching chairs. Two longtime coaches -- Jim Guccione of New Rochelle and Bill Twardy of Carmel -- have retired, while the reigning Section 1 coach of the year -- Andy Guccione of North Rockland -- has left to take the athletic director job at Suffern.

It's become apparent that the landscape in Section 1 is changing.

"I know the expectations for the program are real high," new North Rockland coach Jeff Swick said. "There's pressure there, but at the same time, that pressure builds excitement and is what motivates me."

Fox Lane has won back-to-back Division 1 section titles, but with the loss of a stellar senior class and the retirement of Amuso, the Foxes have left the door wide open. The front-runners are two programs that have been steadily improving in recent seasons.

North Rockland returns six wrestlers who placed at sectionals -- two of which qualified for states -- and three who should enter the season as section title favorites in Blaise Benderoth, Jake DiMarsico and Matt Caputo. Across the Hudson River, Yorktown returns all six of its wrestlers who qualified for sectionals last season, including five that placed, four that went to the finals, and two that won titles in Steven Sabella and David Varian.

"It's a change," Sabella said of Yorktown's high expectations. "We started with pretty much nothing. A bunch of us came on in eighth grade to a team that would win one or two dual meets a year. But we stayed focused, every year we got more and more serious about it, and I think last year was our breaking point."

The combination of uncertainty and emerging talent should make for an exciting season -- one in which many wrestlers will have the opportunity to make names for themselves.

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