PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y. -- Veteran Pleasantville wrestling coach Bob Bernarducci welcomed an abundance of youngsters to the first day of wrestling practice in November, not knowing what the season would bring.
Pleasantville was returning only two seniors and two juniors, so it was evident that many of the newcomers, making the step up from modified, would be thrust into the starting lineup. Seven freshmen and an eighth-grader would eventually earn starting berths. In a span of one month, Pleasantvilles youth explosion has led the Panthers to nine wins, well ahead of the coaching staffs expectations.
Pleasantville closed out the first month with three finalists -- Obum Anyichie, Graham Williamson and Stephen Paternostro -- at the Michael OConnell Wrestling Tournament.
We really stressed to the freshmen that wrestling varsity is going to be a big difference than wrestling modified, said Bernarducci, who is in his 22nd season. On modified you are matched up with a guy of your level, but on varsity you might be wrestling a junior or senior. We were hoping for at least six dual-meet wins and we are at nine.
Bernarducci and assistant coach Stephen Tornambe altered their approach to practice. They stressed the fundamentals to the wrestlers, who became quick learners. The Panthers opened the season with three wins in the Section 1 Dual-Meet Division II Championship. They beat Our Lady of Lourdes and Hastings in out-bracket matches then bested Putnam Valley to reach the semifinals, where they lost to eventual champion and power Nanuet.
We were hoping to go 1-1, but went 2-0 and then we beat Putnam Valley, Bernarducci said. That gave them some confidence.
One week later, Pleasantville beat Harrison and Eastchester in a quad match. Pleasantville was trailing Harrison by 18 points before rallying to even the score, 39-39, and win the match by criteria.
It has been very satisfying, to date. Steve (Tornambe) and I didnt know what to expect this season because we were going to be a very inexperienced team. We feel very good about where we are right now," Bernarducci said. "The boys have made significant strides. I feel we are in the top six among the small schools whereas nobody would have even mentioned us at the beginning of the year.
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