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Published: Friday, 2/10/2006

Waite, Whitmer top CL contenders

BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Waite has ruled the City League wrestling mats for three years running, and 16th-year coach Carmen Amenta's Indians have won four of the last six league championships.

Thus, it is no big surprise, entering the 2006 CL tournament at Rogers, with the final tomorrow night at 6, that the Tribe is favored to make it four in a row and five out of seven titles.

But a revamped program at Whitmer under third-year coach Tom Bridges has reached a level that league coaches believe puts the Panthers at least within striking range of dethroning Waite.

"We're not going there to take second," Bridges said. "I just don't know if we have enough to knock them off. I would say, straight up, it's probably Waite's tournament to lose or our tournament to take away from them.

"We'll try to get in the finals as many times as they do, plus place higher in the other weight classes."

Even Amenta - albeit with at least a hint of famous sandbagging football coach Lou Holtz evident in his voice - claims skepticism about his team's chances of four-peating.

"Whitmer's definitely going to give us a challenge," Amenta said. "I have them beating us by about 15 points on paper. They match up with us pretty good, and their upper weights are extremely strong.

"They've gotten to the finals of a lot of tournaments also. We're just going to work and do the best we can do this weekend."

Waite puts stock in the lighter half of its 14-man lineup, with the first seven Indians (103 through 140 pounds) all considered title contenders.

"The strength of our team is in the lightweight kids," Amenta said. "They've been going pretty hard and they've been in the finals of a lot of the tournaments we've been in. If we're going to win a fourth [straight] title, they're the ones that are going to get us through it."

Two Indians are seeking to repeat individual titles - senior Angelo Castillo (16-3) at 135, and sophomore Justin Gooden (18-4) at 125, who has a long-term goal of becoming the CL's fourth four-time league champion.

"I started around the second tournament," said Castillo, who began late after having surgery to repair a torn ACL last summer. "The hardest part was getting my strength in my leg back to where it was supposed to be. Sometimes I would be scared to try a move, but now I'm over it. I'm close to 100 percent.

"I'm just going to take one match at a time, and I hope I win the tournament again."

"My chances are pretty good," Gooden said, "but I'm going to stay working real hard. I think we're ready. Whitmer's a good team, and I think it's going to come down to who has the most pins going into the finals."

Also expected to be in title chases for Waite are junior Josh Carmona (119 pounds, 21-7 record), sophomores Scott Fuller (112, 17-6), Vinny Lopez (130, 13-5) and Alex Herrick (140, 16-9), and freshman Justin Guerra (103, 14-7).

"Our conditioning is fine," Amenta said. "We've just been dealing with some nagging injuries the last two or three weeks. But we were ready to go last weekend.

"If we're going to beat Whitmer, the key's going to be 160 pounds through heavyweight."

In the Whitmer lineup, although he has no returning CL champions, Bridges lists nine Panthers who he sees as having a legitimate shot at reaching the finals.

Panther contenders include seniors Ryan Roth (130, 28-4), Corey Funk (135, 27-6), Damen Abitua (152, 27-3), Mustafa Eltatawy (189, 26-8) and Jeremy Wright (215, 18-6), juniors Todd Bowman (103, 15-1), Tim Samson (171, 12-4) and Ryan Ernst (275, 25-9), and sophomore Evan Roth (140, 28-5).

Although Amenta and Bridges each acknowledge their role as top contenders, both were quick to tout the challenge they expect from three schools in particular - St. John's Jesuit, St. Francis de Sales and Clay.

St. John's Brian Mohr (145) and Tom Schoen (189) are highly-touted in their classes, St. Francis has been paced by Matt Ramirez (145) and Nate Pelker (171), and Clay has been led by Nick Tammerine (160), Kyle Sutter (103), Justin Flores (112) and Justin Wharton (145).

Some other top individuals expected to contend for titles include Start's Roshawn Jones (119) and Tim Julious (125), and Scott's Demecus Beach (215) and Roger McBride (275).



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