New Milford wrestlers poised to continue winning tradition
NEW MILFORD — Some might think this could be the year to pounce on the three-time defending Class L state champions that have graduated 14 wrestlers.
Not so fast.
With some experience returning and a group of newcomers hungry to make their mark, the lofty goals haven’t changed for the New Milford High wrestling team.
“A state championship, Open title and New England title,” New Milford coach Chris Piel said of his team’s goals this season. “That always remains the same and we have a program in place where we can do it.”
Piel is still figuring out a few pieces to the lineup, but those things have a tendency to work themselves out. It’s not surprising to still have a few question marks considering the amount of seniors the team lost from last season.
One of the biggest losses was Kyle Lindner, who is wrestling at Anderson University in South Carolina where he is 2-1 in his first three matches. Lindner won the Class L and State Open titles last season at 120 pounds.
The Green Wave this year feature a blend of accomplished wrestlers and a number of underclassmen.
The team is led by senior tri-captains Evan Colley, Brett Leonard and Bryan Rojas. Rojas was second in Class L and fifth at the State Open at 138, while Leonard was second in Class L and third at the Open at 152.
“Everyone has been working hard and is ready to step up,” Leonard said. “Our goals are the same and we have the kind of team that can do it.”
Rojas had a similar assessment and feels the hard work the underclassmen have put in will pay off.
“Every year we lost guys and each time people step up,” Rojas said. “The JV, they practice with the varsity, they work just as hard and they know what it takes to be successful because they have been working at it with the varsity over the years.”
Junior Charles Schultz is also back after finishing third at 126 pounds in Class L last season and a trio of sophomores who had standout seasons as freshmen return to bolster the lineup.
After opening the season Wednesday at Bunnell, New Milford will compete in the Farmington Invitational on Saturday. The Green Wave face Xavier on Tuesday before competing in the Danbury Wrestling Tournament on Dec. 28. The team’s home opener is Dec. 30 against Pomperaug.
“Our goal was always to build a program and you have to be a program guy to be involved in this,” Piel said. “We have a great feeder program and the success of New Milford wrestling really starts with the guys that came before me. We have kids ready to step in and good returning wrestlers so we will be good to go.”