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Wrestling outside opens door to excitement for St. John the Baptist

Colby D'Andria of St. John the Baptist, left,

Colby D'Andria of St. John the Baptist, left, and Matthew Skjeveland of Holy Trinity battle at 138 pounds in a CHSAA outdoor wrestling match held on the tennis courts at St. John the Baptist High School in West Islip on Wednesday, May 19, 2021. D'Andria won the bout by decision 10-5. Credit: James Escher

At St. John the Baptist, wrestlers brought their talents outside the gymnasium walls this past week.

In a CHSAA wrestling season where St. John the Baptist had considered various venues because of the pandemic, the Cougars watched their vision turn into a reality.

After opening the season in the traditional gym setting, St. John the Baptist went with a change of pace on Wednesday night by bringing their meet with Holy Trinity under the lights of their tennis court for the first time in program history, according to athletic director Ralph Dalton.

Senior Ivan Garcia, who was victorious in the 132-pound division in his team’s 42-27 win, said competing both outdoors and under the night sky certainly had an impact in regards to both his approach and endurance level.

"This was our first time doing this so I knew I had to put on a show if we were going to be outside at night," Garcia said. "I feel like I definitely have more energy when I’m outdoors. I can definitely catch my breath way more outdoors and it’s a different type of wrestling."

Holy Trinity shared an equal amount of excitement about the event as the host Cougars. Junior Kyle Pomerico, who won at 172, fully embraced the unique nature of the meet.

"It’s amazing to be out here," Pomerico said. "It’s a different feeling . . . for me, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. It changed my mentality completely. I was a bit more aggressive and I was a bit more full of joy, just happy to be out here."

But the Cougars weren’t done switching things up there, as Saturday morning’s meet made another move out onto the football field, where the scoreboard was also utilized.

Dalton said he began brainstorming some creative ideas before the season after learning it would be moved from the winter to the spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The first in a series of three new settings came to life when St. John the Baptist also hosted a daytime meet on the tennis court at the beginning of the season.

"We wanted to try four different things for these kids," Dalton said. "I figured the tennis court lights would work once it got warm. And I really wanted to do the football field.

"We wanted to switch things up and make them even more fun. The kids have really worked so hard at keeping safe and doing the right things. I’m very happy for them and they really appreciate this."

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