The Spartans’ Stellar Start to the Season

Despite low expectations heading into the season, the Spartans have started the season with a winning record and look to carry their momentum into the rest of the season.

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By Zoraiz Irshad

Coming into the 2018-19 season, the Spartans, Stuyvesant’s boys’ varsity wrestling team, started with a clean slate after the departure of their head coach Michael Cigala and a number of leading seniors. New head coach Richard Murray, who had been the assistant coach in previous years, is focusing more on wrestling skills than conditioning. This has been a welcome change for the players, who are used to training under a coach notorious for running strenuous practices that left them exhausted and feeling unmotivated.

Before the start of the season, senior and captain Alwin Peng had low expectations for the team due to the loss of seniors and abundance of younger wrestlers. “[I expect us to perform] worse than before,” Peng said.

Much to the surprise of Peng, however, the Spartans got off to a roaring start to the season, winning three of their first four matches. They have pinned anyone who stood in their way to the wrestling mat one by one, paving their way to a three-game win streak. Nobody wants to try to stop this stampede.

In their only loss so far, the Spartans were defeated in their first match of the season against Midwood High School with a final score of 48-36. They were defeated in nine of 15 matches, with freshmen Ryan Poon, Krishna Dudani, and Ryan Li, sophomore Alexander Gee, and juniors Jeffrey Zheng and George Dong defeating their opponents in their weight classes of 99, 106, 113, 120, 160, and 182 pounds, respectively, respectively. Many matches resulted in a Spartan being pinned down by their opponent, ending in a fall. One match ended in just 20 seconds.

However, the Spartans bounced back in their second match, defeating Bayard Rustin Educational Complex with a final score of 43-36. Eight of 14 Spartans came out victorious in this match in the weight classes of 99, 113, 126, 132, 152, 160, 170, and 220 pounds. Unlike their first match against Midwood, the Spartans were able to finish off their opponents quickly, setting a tone and holding a steady lead throughout the match.

The Spartans then proceeded to demolish Beacon High School with a final score of 60-18, humiliating Beacon in front of its home crowd. Nine of 13 wrestlers were victorious in this match.

Stuyvesant continued its streak with a blowout win over Murry Bergtraum High School, much to the delight of the Stuyvesant students in attendance. Just three wrestlers were unable to pick up wins in this match, which ended with a lopsided score of 66-18 in favor of the Spartans. Five of their victories ended in falls; three of them ended within a minute.

The Spartans now sit at third place in their division after winning three straight matches. Things certainly seem to be looking up for the team, for which their highest ranking in the standings in the last four years has been fourth place (in the 2015-2016 and 2017-2018 seasons).

Though Peng says that most players are meeting expectations, he went out of his way to mention freshman Ryan Poon’s exceptional play. It is rare that freshmen are able to contribute a lot to a varsity team—especially in wrestling—but it is exciting to see when one can do just that like Poon has this year.

The Spartans will face the tough task of maintaining this win streak against visiting Brooklyn Technical High School, which currently sits at first place in the division with an undefeated record of 4-0. They will then travel to Grand Street Campus to square off with the Wolves, who currently also have a 4-0 record and sit at second place in the standings. With a short season that is just seven games long, every game is important. In this difficult division, making the playoffs will certainly be very tough, but a win against Brooklyn Tech in front of the Stuyvesant faithful would certainly be a good place to start.

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