Thanks to their tri-captains, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Middle School wrestling team was reloaded.
In what would have been a rebuilding season for less successful programs (losing eight starters), the Generals came through with another winning season (9-6) and made their presence felt at the Central Jersey Interscholastic Wrestling League White Division Tournament (fourth place with eight medalists).
Head coach John Krupp credited the Generals’ tri-captains — Nico Messina, Kenny Koenig and Michael Gagliardo — with setting the tone in the gym from the start of the season and providing leadership by example.
“[The tri-captains] came right out of the gate on the first day of practice to make a statement to this wrestling unit that meeting expectations was failure and exceeding expectations was the daily norm and what was to expected both in practice and on match day.”
It worked, as the Generals exceeded expectations with 12 new starters in the lineup and maintained their long stretch of winning seasons despite moving into a new division.
The captains backed up their leadership in competition, producing outstanding individual campaigns.
Messina had a great season, going 22-0 overall for the season (15-0 regular season). He was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler at the White Division Tournament and won championships at the White vs. Red Division, Monmouth-Middlesex Tournament of Champions and the Tri-County (Monmouth, Ocean and Middlesex counties) Tournament.
Koenig also went 15-0 during the regular season and was runner-up in the White Division Tournament for a 17-1 season.
Gagliardo was also 17-2 and finished second in the division tournament.
All three wrestled, with success, in the Jersey Shore League. Messina won the league championship and regional tournament, qualifying for the state championships. Koenig won the South Jersey title and was second in the league championship, also qualifying for the state meet in Trenton. Gagliardo won the Jersey Shore League crown and also went to Trenton.
Of course, Eisenhower wouldn’t have had a winning season and taken fourth at the divisional championships without a total team effort. The Generals received help from everyone in the lineup.
Hector Santiago went 16-3, won the division title and was second in the White vs. Red tournament.
Chris Hall (14-4) was second in the division tournament.
Michael Filozof (12-5) was a semifinalist in the division tournament.
Anthony Tantillo (12-6) reach the division final.
Completing the team are Joe Phillips (13-5), division semifinalist; Coltrane Smith (10-8), division semifinalist; Andrew Cennanmo (10-8), division semifinalist; John Forte (6-5), divisional qualifier; and Sarahelena Marrapodi, a walk-on who won her very first match and six for the season.
Coach Krupp dedicated the 2015-16 season to his brother, Lawrence, who died unexpectedly last August.