Updated: Aug 28
A.J. Martelli, Poughkeepsie Journal
Our Lady of Lourdes Riley McHale pictured at Arlington High School in 2017. He has become one of the top grapplers for the Warriors in his senior season.(Photo: Michael Giacalone/for The Poughkeepsie Journal)
In the recent past, the Our Lady of Lourdes High School wrestling team may have boasted one top wrestler each season.
This year the Warr
iors possess not one, but three section title hopefuls. It's the first time in team history Lourdes has a trio of potential champions in one season, and it’s thanks to the resurgence and growth of the school's wrestling program.
That new life in Lourdes' wrestling team has already given the Warriors a sense of accomplishment.
“I’m very proud of where we started from,” said second-year head coach Rich McHale. “I feel like the program is still in its infancy of building, but we’re more in a groove than we were in years past. We’re kind of in sync.”
McHale’s son, Riley, is one of the reasons the team is in a better position. The 138-pound senior is among the top small-school grapplers in the area.
Coming off a third-place finish in last year’s section tournament, the younger McHale was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler at Somers' Eric D’Agnese Tournament on Jan. 4. He went on to win three matches at the notoriously difficult Eastern States Classic, which includes wrestlers from across the northeast. Entering Monday, he was 34-2 with 26 pinfall victories.
“He knows how to manage a match,” McHale said of his son. “He’s very aware of where he’s at in a match. He’s very skillful, and works with the skill that he’s learned more than he does his athletic ability. He’s extremely slow, not that strong. But he’s got a very high wrestling IQ.”
Lourdes' Riley McHale was voted Wrestler of the Week for Dec. 9-15, 2019.(Photo: Submitted by Team)
Joe Krauza, who wrestles at 182 pounds, is the opposite. He was another third-place finisher in last year’s section tournament, and is 32-4. His coach lauded the junior for his athleticism.
That ability may be hereditary. Krauza’s father, Andrew, was a defensive lineman at Boston College in the late 1990s.
“Joe is just a gifted athlete and he’s pretty skilled, but he’s extremely strong,” McHale said. “He does things a lot of kids can’t do.”
Jackson Wainwright (120 pounds) is the third section title contender, and entered this season having placed fifth in the section tournament a year ago. With a 26-7 record this season, McHale called the sophomore “quick and relentless,” and mentioned that he typically hits his stride in the third period of his matches.
All three put in extra time at Empire Wrestling Academy in Somers three times a week after practice.
“All of them work very hard,” McHale said. “All three are looking at section championships. It’s been a good thing, considering.”
The Warriors lost to Putnam Valley on Friday, 48-36. However, Wainwright, Riley McHale, Matthew Krauza, James DeSocio and Predrag Skumpia each picked up pinfall victories.
Lourdes has one final dual meet, against Arlington, on Tuesday. The Section 1 Division II tournament takes place Feb. 15 at SUNY Purchase.
A rise after a fall
While the Warriors have a chance to crown more than one champion this year, the previous seasons haven't been as successful. The program has endured a long, hard road.
The lack of a feeder system has hindered Lourdes; students interested in wrestling often must start from scratch.
Wrestling at Lourdes was phased out for the 2015-16 season, though the program was restarted a year later when coach Stephen Price took over.
“It’s tough to build a program with this type of sport because a lot of skill needs to be given to these kids at a young age. By the time they get to high school, they kind of have a head start,” McHale said. “We don’t have any of that at Lourdes.”
Those struggles are sometimes exploited in certain weight classes. For instance, with no modified team, Lourdes can’t simply pull a wrestler up to compete in the 99 and 106-pound weight classes.
“We don’t have that, so we usually have to forfeit those classes. It’s always been a struggle,” McHale said.
Despite that, the sport has blossomed at the school. McHale said he has more athletes on the team this year compared to last year, and he has wrestlers who have stuck with it through thick and thin.
“As the years go on these kids stay on,” he said. “This is my second year as head coach and third year as a coach and they all kind of understand my philosophy now and how I want things done. I am proud of this.”