Wrestler Sam Tenaglia guides his team after a life spent on the mat

Sudharshana Krishnan, Editor-in-Chief

After quickly adjusting his mouth guard, senior and wrestling team captain Sam Tenaglia walks onto the mat at what would soon become one of his most memorable matches. As he pins his opponent to the ground, Tenaglia not only wins the match, but with over 160 victories, becomes the school record holder. He also holds the record for most wins in a season and in a four-year career.

“It’s interesting to see his development,” coach Zachary Winfrey, who has coached Tenaglia for five years, said. “He’s worked really hard, so he’s definitely earned it. I hope he achieves his goals.”

Tenaglia’s interest in the sport began at the age of five as he watched his older brothers wrestle. As a freshman, Tenaglia continued his wrestling career by joining the team and was further inspired by the upperclassmen wrestlers, to whom he credits with some of his success since then.

“I felt amazing when I got [the school record] because it was previously held by one of my role model, 2013 graduate Walter Carlson, who was a senior when I was a freshman,” Tenaglia said.  

As a returning state finalist, conference title holder and regional medal-winner, he hoped to win the state championship, as the team has not had a champion in over 20 years. Although Tenaglia did not achieve his goal, he placed third.

“I want to win the state championship,” Tenaglia said. “I have always wanted to get my picture on the wall in the wrestling room.”

As a captain of the team, Tenaglia has encouraged and influenced his teammates and emphasized that hard work is key to success.

“He won’t let adversity stop him from reaching what he has set out to do,” co-captain and senior Khalid Shafa said. “He is always pushing himself, so I know he has even higher goals that he is going to reach.”

Wrestling is both a physically and mentally demanding sport, and Tenaglia has committed himself to improving and excelling in both ways.

“He is the product of the process [of improving,]” Winfrey said. “In wrestling, there is no immediate satisfaction. It takes years to get that good, and he’s devoted himself to that.”

Aside from encouragement from family, teammates, friends and coaches, Tenaglia also attributes his success to his pre-game routine.

“Before a match, I listen to a lot of music, mostly old school rap,” Tenaglia said. “I try to get my adrenaline up through sprints, stance and motion.”

Since wrestling in high school is one of his main priorities, Tenaglia also participates in off-season workouts.

“Consistency is the hardest part [of wrestling.] Every day, except for Sunday, you’re doing something really difficult,” Winfrey said. “Tenaglia, who wrestles year-round, wrestles really hard from November to February. He then continues through March and June.”

Through Tenaglia’s years on the team, he has created lasting relationships and many noteworthy memories.

“All the overnight trips and team dinners are always great,” Shafa said. “It’s [during practice] when we are both going our hardest wrestling each other where we created a bond and a respect for each other.”

Tenaglia has committed to wrestle at Johnson and Wales University as a part of its Division III program.

“I don’t see anything that could stop him from excelling at the college level,” Shafa said. “Whatever career Tenaglia chooses, I know he will succeed because he has that wrestler mentality.”

Tenaglia’s work ethic and charismatic personality has created lasting impressions on the school as well as those close to him.

“He is one of the greatest people you will ever meet,” Shafa said. “He never excludes anyone. He is one of the easiest people to talk to. He always has good advice, always does his best to help and always stays positive.”