Stuyvesant Spartans’ senior and co-captain Cade Lueker circles the wrestling mat, eyeing his opponent, senior Feras Zedeia of William C. Bryant High School. With first place in the city on the line for the 170-weight class, they exchange a few quick taps to the head, when suddenly Zedeia strikes, locking their arms, and brings Lueker down, giving himself a 2-0 advantage.
With seconds left in the first round, Lueker fights back and ties it up 2-2. After the second round, it’s still even at 4-4. Soon after, the referee blows his whistle to signal the start of the third and final round, Zedeia manages to pin Lueker down, making the score 6-4. With seven seconds left, Lueker makes a desperate lunge at Zedeia, gaining a point in the process. However, that’s all he gets, as the final whistle signals the end of the match, 6-5 Zedeia.
Lueker silently takes off his helmet and shakes hands with Zedeia and the Bryant coaches before making his way to his parents and Spartans’ coach Michael Cigala.
Even though he came in second, his placement is a major accomplishment. “[Stuyvesant] has a lot of work, and [students don’t] have the most time to train,” Lueker said. “Last year, I was out because I hurt my back, but getting better and training over the summer and getting ready for this season helped me a lot,” Lueker said.
Cigala, while disappointed that Lueker had lost the match, thought that the team was phenomenal overall. “Our younger guys won a lot of matches… 170 [weight division] is one of the best in the city, and Lueker had come out and won four other matches before this, […] we’re happy,” Cigala said. “We’re a pretty young team with a lot of sophomores and juniors, and they’ll be juniors and seniors next year, so we’re looking forward to competing again next year.”
Senior and co-captain Valerie Leung, one of the two girls on the team, competes with the boys’ team because Stuyvesant does not have a girls’ wrestling team. Even though she is facing off against boys, she loves the sport. “Wrestling is definitely one of the most challenging and time consuming sports but I love it,” Leung said. Her dedication to the sport is what coaches want in their wrestlers.
The first day of city championships was tough for the rest of the Spartans who competed, including junior Adam Abbas and junior Allard Peng. Abbas went 0-2 but lost very marginally in his second match. Peng was forced to forfeit his matches after suffering a concussion.
For Abbas, even with the disappointing first day, the future of the Spartans is looking bright. Though it was his first year wrestling for Stuyvesant, he was successful enough to make it to the city championships. Unfortunately, he went 0-2 the first day, but he’s using his newfound knowledge of the sport to set goals for next year.
Abbas thought his weaknesses during the season were his technique and lack of experience. “Wrestling isn’t a sport you can master instantly,” Abbas said. He is looking forward to working a lot on his technique and learning new strategies during the off-season. “I’m going to have a lot more motivation [next year], considering it’s my last, and I know how good it feels to do well.”
“We train 12 months out of the year. We’re ready to go into our offseason program and our weight-training program,” said Cigala. The Spartans are only losing six seniors out of the 23 on their current roster. The team will, for the most part, be unchanged for the next season and will again look to compete at a high level.