GLOCESTER – The Ponaganset High School wrestling team was recognized by the Glocester Town Council at their Thursday, May 18 meeting for earning both Rhode Island and New England titles, putting Ponaganset on the map as a force with which to contend in the future.
“We are very proud to honor the Ponaganset Wrestling team for their incredible season,” said Council President William Worthy.
Worthy read a proclamation reading in part, “The team spirit and camaraderie demonstrated by the team and their coaches throughout the season has proven to be an outstanding inspiration to other students and a source of pride for Glocester and Northern Rhode Island.”
The Council then handed individual copies of the resolutions honoring both coaches and students to members of the team who were present.
Assistant coach Mike Joyce, who was head coach until last year, later explained in an interview that their success in the last few years was no fluke. He started building the program in 2007 and now the hard work and dedication over the years was coming to fruition.
“We have been building this ship since 2007,” he said. “This has been a community effort by staff and school.”
That process started with a youth program which emphasized hard work and dedication both on and off the mat. The result has been successes in both areas, including earning a national ranking by Inter Mat, a wrestling website that tracks schools nationally. Joyce added that Ponaganset may be the only Rhode Island school to achieve the top 50 ranking.
While the wrestling program has earned accolades, so have the student/athletes who have participated. Joyce noted that over the past five years, the program has helped place five wrestlers in five Ivy League schools. Wrestlers are encouraged to take regular course loads and work on SAT scores and the other essentials necessary to be successful scholar/athlete candidates when it comes time to apply to colleges.
“We bill wrestling as a tool to get into those schools,” adds Joyce.
Joyce credited not only staff and parents, but the town in general for helping to make that happen. That staff includes head coach Steve Mineo, and assistant coaches David Amato, former longtime Brown University head coach, and Steve DiNobile, who earned honors as Assistant Coach of the Year from the RI Wrestling Coaches Association.
“We benefit from the generosity of this town, from the people from Foster and Glocester who support our schools,” said Joyce. “We would not have these opportunities without their support.”
Did he think they would go as far as they did this year, earning both state and New England championships?
“We felt we certainly could have won,” he said.
And they did, in a big way, outdistancing their New England opponents by earning 142 points overall. Their closest rival, Massachusetts’ St. John’s Prep earned 82 points. The only other Rhode Island schools to make the top 10 were Coventry, 3rd overall with 75 points, and Bishop Hendricken, 7th with 60 points.
Wrestlers included: senior Jacob Joyce, who won his 2nd straight NE championship at 126 lbs. and made All-American as well. Earning 2nd place finishes were freshman David Perez at 120 lbs., who also earned a 2nd place finish in the high school nationals, and senior Jason Hood at 152 lbs., a second time state champ. Junior Andrew Reall, a second time state champ, finished 3rd at 160 lbs. Senior Nick Baccala, a second time state champ, finished 5th at 170 lbs. Sophomore Preston Marchessault, an All American, finished 5th at 182 lbs. Sophomore William Leischner, a 3rd place state finisher, finished 6th at 132 lbs.
They may very well be back before the council again next year.
“We have five outstanding kids coming in next year,” said Joyce. “And a young nucleus to help them continue their roll.”