(Dec. 5, 2014) With such a young team, Stephen Decatur wrestling Coach Todd Martinek is excited about some of the underclassmen and the progress the newcomers are making.
“[We] lost seven quality seniors who had [a combined total] 179 wins [and 56 losses] last year alone [and] three were state place winners. That’s hard to replace,” Martinek said. “We have some really nice young kids. They just lack experience.”
Martinek, now in his fourth year leading the team, said the Seahawks are coachable; they are working hard and learning.
Forty-five grapplers are participating this season. About 20 are on the varsity team, eight of them are veterans.
Sophomores Robert Kaminski  and Andy McKahan  won their Bayside Conference divisions as freshmen last year. It was the first time in program history a Decatur ninth grader captured a conference title. McKahan also earned a regional title and placed third at states.
Kaminski will compete in the 106-pound weight class and McKahan in the 126- or 132-pound division.
“I’ve improved and I think I can do better than I did last year,” McKahan said. “Just win my matches and get six points for the team, that’s how I can help lead … We’ve got a few injured kids, but I think we’re coming along.”
Also returning are juniors Tyler VanSice  and Brett Kim [160-170], and senior T.J. Scafone [132-138].
Seniors Jeremiah Purnell , Brandon McKenzie  and Brandon Wooten  have been named team captains.
“The new kids just don’t know the ropes yet. I’ve made friends this year with some of the new freshmen,” said Purnell, a four-year wrestler. “I just think I need to go a lot harder than last year and show the younger kids what’s supposed to be happening, how to wrestle and just keep a right mindset and be a mentor for everyone.”
Martinek will also look to sophomore Josh Lawson , juniors Drew Baker  and Gus Esham , and seniors Joseph Rodriguez  and Ben Haines  to contribute.
Sophomores Ean Spencer, Jian Joobeen and Gavin Payne will battle for the starting spot at 220 and 285 pounds.
With some early-season injuries, the key to being successful is for the Seahawks to remain healthy, Martinek said. The team went 14-0 during 2013-14 regular-season competition and the grapplers hope to go undefeated again this year.
One advantage the squad has is experienced trainers. Working with Martinek this year are Dave Moquin, Evan Kolb and Don Parana, and Decatur alumni Dylan Drew, Danny Kominos and Devin Bataille.
“My coaching staff is incredible. I have six assistants, many with college experience or who are young alumni who are on the mats with these guys every day,” Martinek said. “It makes my job a lot easier with assistants who are knowledgeable and great role models.”