TAMPA — Coming off a stellar 2009-10 season that included district and region titles, Jesuit lost four state qualifiers to graduation, making it tough to start anew with lofty goals.
Coach Mike Scicchitano, however, is not as concerned about wins and losses as about the here and now.
“We don’t dwell at all on last year,” he said. “Last year was last year. It’s nice to have that on your resume, but all we can do is get better in practice each day.
“…What’s important is that our student-athletes perform to the best of their abilities.”
That said, the Tigers have a trio of top performers with proven ability in returning state qualifiers Anthony Cimino, Mike Popp and Christian Dominguez. They are being counted on for their prowess on the mat as much as their leadership.
“We lost a number of seniors that contributed to (last year’s) team,” Scicchitano said. “The rest of our team lacks experience, so we’re looking forward to those three stepping up.
“Any time you can get a nice core of two or three tough kids it tends to rub off on the rest of the team. It’s nice as a coach to have some stability in your lineup.”
As co-captains, seniors Cimino and Popp welcome their roles. They are similar in their approach, preferring to fire up teammates by working hard in practice and leading by example over being vocal.
“Cimino and I are the captains,” Popp said. “The others look to Dominguez (a junior) as well. We all try to lead by example. I think it’s great for me to have a chance to teach the freshmen a couple of new moves and help the team out.”
Cimino spent much of his summer bulking up in the weight room. Having been to states twice — as a sophomore at 130 pounds and last year at 140 — he now competes in the 160 weight class. Several teammates joined Cimino in the weight room.
“I just try to train hard,” said Cimino, adding that he and Popp “just try to tell everybody to work hard and you’ll get to where we are.”
Cimino, 62-19 over the past two seasons, went 1-2 at state as a sophomore before following up a district title last year with a third-place showing at state. While adhering to his coach’s philosophy of improving daily and accepting the results from giving his all, Cimino still has his sights set higher.
“I try every day to wrestle like I’m wrestling in the state finals,” he said. “Every day, I’m wrestling to win states.”
Similarly, Popp, who last year won a district title and was a region runnerup at 119, is eyeing a bigger postseason prize. Having made his state debut but not placing last year, he will pursue his goal at 125 or 130 this season.
“My goal is to place in the top three at state,” he said. “It was a goal I set in the beginning of last season.”
Like the others, Dominguez, who wrestled at 112 last season, will bump up in weight class. Scicchitano will likely slot him at 119 or 125.
For the leaders of the Tigers, those goals, along with their personal and team records, will fall in place as long as they continue to improve along the way.
“Each year’s a new year,” Popp said. “What we did last year doesn’t affect us this year. We just have to keep working hard.”
Returning state champions
(listed with weight and classification at which they won)
James Flint, Fr., Brandon (103)*
Rossi Bruno, Jr., Brandon (119)
Kevin Norstrem, So., Brandon (125)
Tyler Liberatore, Jr., Brandon (130)
Clark Glass, Jr., Brandon (145)
* Won state title with Tampa Bay Christian
Returning state qualifiers
(listed with weight at which they qualified)
Abe Fernandez, Sr., Strawberry Crest (103)
Victor Fugate, Jr., Brandon (103)
William Joyce, Jr., Plant City (103)
Wilfredo Sierra, Jr., Middleton (112)
Christian Dominguez, Jr., Jesuit (112)
Matt Livernois, Sr., Strawberry Crest (119)
Mike Popp, Sr., Jesuit (119)
Roger Phillips, Sr., Chamberlain (125)
Thomas Lebarre, Sr., Newsome (130)
Jared Rogers, Sr., Durant (130)
James Aikman, Sr., Spoto (135)
Josh Fulford, Sr., Steinbrenner (135)
Travis Berridge, So., Brandon (140)
Anthony Cimino, Sr., Jesuit (140)
Ryan Pickren, Jr., Berkeley Prep (145)
Kaylab Phillips, Jr., Lennard (145)
Richard Santacruz, Sr., Spoto (152)
Cody Chaney, Jr., Plant City (160)
Wally Figaro, Sr., Brandon (160)
Chris Padilla, Sr., Robinson (160)
Kyle Koziel, Jr., Brandon (171)
Mike Ettore, Sr., Brandon (189)
Ben Richards, Jr., Hillsborough (215)
Friday-Saturday: O’Town Showdown, Orlando
Dec. 3-4: Durant’s Cougar Invitational
Dec. 10-11: Graves Tournament at Brandon; Raider Invitational at Plant City
Dec. 17-18: National, American, Federal Division meets
Jan. 7-8: Hurricane Tournament at Manatee
Jan. 21-22: Ippolito Invitational at Brandon
Jan. 28-29: County Championships at Riverview
Jan. 31-Feb. 5: District tournaments
Feb. 11-12: Region tournaments
Feb. 18-19: State tournaments