The Allentown High School wrestling team will first attempt to obtain bragging rights in the area before focusing on taking the next step.
The Redbirds come off a 15-8 season, during which they advanced to the quarterfinals of the Central Jersey, Group 4 state tournament. Allentown was eliminated from the tournament by the eventual sectional champion, Jackson Memorial High School, 43-30.
Allentown coach Mitchell Nock believes the team can go far this season, but he wants his Redbirds to focus on dominating the local competition first, and then the squad will prepare for the state tournaments.
“Locally, I feel like we can win our division,” Nock said. “I feel that we can win the county this year. I feel like we can finish as one of the best teams in the county this year. We’ve been chasing Hopewell Valley [Central High School] for the two years I’ve been here. I feel like we have the team to compete with them this year, as well as Robbinsville [High School] and Nottingham [High School]. I feel like the sky is the limit for us locally.”
Nock believes the experience will help this season.
“We just have to rise to the challenge,” he said. “We have to be ready for it. The kids just got to believe in it. We have to fight for each other. Last year, I had a really young team. I had about eight new starters out of 14. I had some great leaders that graduated the year before, so we had some hiccups along the way. But last year was a great learning experience for these guys.
“This year, I only graduated one guy out of my starting lineup. So I have a really good team back and have some really good leaders. So if we can stay together, this year should go really well.”
Nock will count on two standouts to spearhead Allentown’s effort. The first is Liam McDermott, a senior who the coach says will probably wrestle at 170 pounds this year.
“He was a state qualifier last year, and he won a match in states,” Nock said. “He definitely wants to get on that podium. He wants to be top eight in the state, if not better. He’s a senior. He’s done really well for us. He’s looking to end this year really strong.”
Nock will also look for big contributions from sophomore Joey Lamparelli, who will wrestle at 106 or 113 pounds.
“He went to states as well as a freshman,” the coach said. “He won two matches for us — one at county and one at districts. He’s looking to do some big things this year. He also wants to be on the podium. He has aspirations to be ranked as high as possible. Some rankings have him as fourth, others fifth. He wants to accomplish great things, and he’s on his way.”
McDermott and Lamparelli both have high expectations for the team and individually.
“As a team, I think we have that chance to do a lot of special things this year,” McDermott said. “I think we can [win] a conference title. I think we can win [the Mercer County Tournament]. We can win districts. I think we can work our way to a sectional title, too.”
“I think the same thing as Liam,” Lamparelli said. “Individually, I’m looking to repeat as district champion, win the region and get on the podium at the end of the year.”
The wrestlers are calling for their teammates to deliver as well.
“Everybody’s really going to have to commit to the team, especially in order to win a sectional title,” McDermott said. “We’re going to have to think of the team first and not ourselves. If someone has to make a cut or go up a weight in order for us to win a match, that’s what we’re going to have to do. Everyone has to get on board with that.”
“We have to have everybody on the same page and doing the right stuff,” Lamparelli said. “We all need to be training right, eating the right things, drinking enough water and having fun because if you’re not having fun, there’s no point to it.”