BEDFORD, N.Y. – Tommy Grippi arrived at the first day of Fox Lane varsity wrestling practice Monday, looked around and found himself in a weird situation.
Not only was legendary Fox Lane wrestling coach Joe Amuso not there following his retirement after 41 years, the senior class that led the Foxes to the 2012 Section 1 Division I title was in college.
“It was weird without Coach Amuso and also the guys I’ve wrestled with the last few years, like Sam, G-Cash, Matt and Danny (Ventura),” said Grippi, the 2012 Section 1 Division I 135-pound champion.
Fox Lane begins life after Amuso, who finished with 406 victories and was the dean of Section 1 wrestling coaches prior to his retirement. Grippi said Fox Lane does not plan to change anything under former Fox Lane assistant and new head coach Anthony Rodrigues.
“We are still going to be Fox Lane, and he is still going to make us do the same thing, which is work hard and push us in the room to be the best we can be,” Grippi said.
Along with Rodrigues, David Colagiovanni will be the new assistant coach. Colagiovanni was a three-time Section 1 Division I champ at Mahopac and a state finalist his senior year.
Rodrigues had to acclimate himself to his new position by going over everything with his wrestlers, from certification to concussions to the requirements for practice.
“It was a little slow at first, with all of the administrative stuff to go over, but once we were done, practice went well and the guys worked hard,” Rodrigues said.
Fox Lane graduated an outstanding senior class in Sam Speno, Danny Ventura, Matt Pasqualini, Giancarlo Morreale and Danny Clune. Speno, Ventura and Pasqualini all placed in the 2012 New York State Championships.
Grippi, a senior, is the team’s elder statesman. He is joined by returnees Chris Manjuck, Ben Ettlinger, Frank Surace, Brandon Fay and Scotty Rodrigues. Seventh-grader Matt Grippi becomes the fourth Grippi brother to wrestle varsity for Fox Lane.
Tommy Grippi understands the team is young and somewhat inexperienced, but he knows Fox Lane still will be good.
“We have a lot of young talent on the team, and a lot of the freshmen are hungry and want to be in the lineup,” Grippi said. “A lot of our guys go to John Degl’s outside of practice and work hard.”
Grippi knows that the opposition will underestimate Fox Lane because of its graduation losses, so the Foxes are using it as motivation.
“That is going to make us step it up, work even harder and do even better,” Grippi said.