As a first-year wrestler, Alfredo Bongiorno has learned a lot of things.
A desire to win isn’t one of them.
The New Bedford High senior showed plenty of heart earlier this season during a match against Marlboro’s Osmar Argeda at Boston College High.
Bongiorno was trailing with five seconds left when Argeda called a timeout.
“I got to talk to him. I said, ‘You can still win this match,’” said New Bedford wrestling coach Steve Sentes. “And then he threw the kid to his back and pinned him. He wrestles to the end. That’s what you look for in a wrestler. He’s been awesome to coach.”
A transfer from GNB Voc-Tech, Bongiorno has had an impact on New Bedford’s wrestling program.
“Looking at him, he’s a big kid, but you never know how somebody is going to be based on their looks,” Sentes said. “He has great work ethic. The way he works, the mentality he has, he’s a great kid.
“He really wants to learn. Anything I tell him, he’s taking a note of it in his head. He’ll ask questions. He’s kind of a quiet kid, but when he wants to know something he’ll ask you.”
Wrestling at 195 pounds, Bongiorno went 23-10 during the regular season. He enters Saturday’s South Sectional meet at Brockton seeded fifth in his weight class.
“I think he’ll place at sectionals,” Sentes said. “He just works and he doesn’t stop. He’s a tough kid. He’s what you look for in any kind of athlete.”
Bongiorno grew up playing football and never considered wrestling until he watched it during the 2016 Olympics.
“I always liked the sport,” he said. “I thought it was cool and I thought I’d be good at it.”
A fullback and linebacker on the football team, Bongiorno wasn’t afraid to try a new sport at 17 years old.
“It’s my last year,” he said. “I figured I might as well.”
Like football, wrestling is an intense sport that tests an athlete’s physical and mental strength.
“I was always about football, but now I’m about wrestling,” he said. “I like the competition. It’s you against them.”
Even though this is his first trip to sectionals, Bongiorno has high expectations.
“I think I have a shot at winning it,” he said. “I want to get to states.”
With the No. 1 seed at 106 pounds, teammate and fellow senior Wilson Gomes is looking for his first sectional championship.
“I feel good with where I’m at,” said Gomes, who finished the regular season 38-4. “This was the first time I worked in the offseason. You have to put in a lot of time to be a sectional champ or a state champ.”
Gomes came in fifth at sectionals a year ago, but is much stronger — mentally and physically.
“He wants to be a state champ, but I want to push him to be more than that,” Sentes said. “He was always really good at technique, but he got a little stronger. He just got the mentality that he wasn’t going to take it from anybody. He wants to win. He knows that he’s tough. He uses that to win.”
Camren Perry (21-7; 113), Ethan Medeiros (23-18; 120), David Crespo (34-10; 132) Jadrian Carrion (19-13; 145), Alexis Maldonado (23-15; 170), Mark Hawkins (18-11; 220) and Tyrek Williams (16-4; heavyweight) are coming off strong regular seasons and looking to continue their success at sectionals.
“We work hard everyday,” said Perry, who finished sixth at sectionals last winter. “I just kept pushing myself and working with my teammates. I see the younger guys improving and they’ll make good things happen.”
Also representing New Bedford are Jacob Duval (126), Hayden Deschenes (138), Diogo Fortes (152), Lucken Deliscat (160) and Angel Garcia (182).
With several wrestlers working in the offseason, Sentes has seen major improvement.
“I just want to watch the kids wrestle and see the growth we’ve had over the year,” he said. “I try not to put pressure on them. All year I’ve talked about putting on a show; you’re working hard here at practice but have fun when you’re on the mat. As long as everyone leaves it out there, I’ll be happy.”
Follow Laurie Los on Twitter @LaurieLosSCT