Mixed results for Gateway wrestling
Gateway wrestling’s slow start was expected by its coach.
The Gators have a young, inexperienced roster that is focused on the basics of competing, according to coach Ryan Sula.
The team also has wrestlers in Nevin Matthews and Evan Whiteside who are leaders with aspirations to compete at the PIAA championships. The combination of youth and experience has combined for mixed results.
Gateway placed 17 out of 23 teams in the Eastern Area Invitational in early December with the lone standout performance coming from Whiteside, who placed second at 113 pounds.
“I was very happy to have one kid in the finals, but I was a little disappointed that we only placed one kid,” Sula said. “That was the beginning of the year with a young team, and I feel that a lot of our kids have made progress since then.”
Gateway’s top wrestlers bounced back at the North Hills Duals with Blake Hanisak, Whiteside and Matthews going undefeated and Javokhir Rakhmatullaev winning four of five matches with each victory earned by pin.
“I was really pleased with the performance there,” Sula said. “I’m particularly pleased with (Evan and Nevin). At the same time, I know Nevin was a little bit upset with his 1-2 record at Eastern Area. Then, he responded nicely at the North Hills Duals.”
The Gators were outscored 147-18 in two Section 1AAA-1B meets against Hempfield and Greensburg Salem
“In section competition, I think we’ve wrestled two of the three tougher teams in our subsection already,” Sula said. “We won some matches, but a lot of our new kids got hit hard by some kids who have been wrestling for a lot of years. Overall, for the first month of the season, I am really high on the potential of what is to come.”
Gateway has used time off during winter break to focus on fundamentals, and Sula said learning lessons from the first month of the season will be “good for everyone’s growth.”
“I just tell the guys in the room every day to stick with it and prepare every day like it’s the match,” Sula said. “I also try to get them to focus on the basics of wrestling before they try to take on a bigger assortment of moves that aren’t really in their wheelhouse yet.”
The Gators competed in the Steve DeAugustino Holiday Classic, a tournament Sula believed was a good gauge for his young wrestlers.
Whiteside won each of his matches on the first day of competition, and Bryce Washington went 2-1. Rakhmatullaev was 2-2, and Matthews was 1-1.
“I really expect everyone to have greater success (deeper into the season),” Sula said. “Part of the season is peaking at the right time, and over the last couple of years, I feel my teams have performed better in January and February, but, again, that comes with experience.”
The early-season growing pains don’t worry Sula, who wants to see who will perform well in section meets.
“It’s always exciting anytime you have a young team, and you see those younger kids start to do the right things in matches,” Sula said. “You know you’ve been drilling it, drilling it and drilling it, and then it finally happens in the match. That’s always exciting to me, and hopefully this weekend that will come.”
Shawn Annarelli is a freelance writer.