Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Sports Person of the Week

Castaneda’s a Consummate Role Model On the Mat


Senior captain Armando Castaneda has a record of 25-16 while competing in the heavyweight division for the East Haven wrestling team this winter. Photo courtesy of Armando Castaneda

Senior captain Armando Castaneda has a record of 25-16 while competing in the heavyweight division for the East Haven wrestling team this winter. (Photo courtesy of Armando Castaneda )

Armando Castaneda first stepped on the wrestling mat when his friend Joncarlo Alberino asked him to join the middle school team in 6th grade. When he got to the high school, Armando worked out with the Yellowjackets as a freshman and then made his varsity debut during his sophomore season. Now a senior, Armando is helping East Haven have one of its best campaigns in program history while competing in the 285-pound weight class.

Armando, who weighs about 245 pounds, has consistently squared off against larger opponents in the heavyweight division. Head Coach Mark Tolla says that Armando uses some excellent technique to make up the difference.

“We try to accentuate the things he does well. From a technique standpoint, we tried to work on moves where he doesn’t have to attack directly and carry the burden of that weight,” says Tolla. “He’s also learned our snap-down headlock series. It’s very sophisticated, and he does it really well. It keeps him from ever being underneath his opponent.”

Armando says the snap-down headlock has become one of his trademark maneuvers. Armando’s mastery of the move, along with his overall athleticism and endurance, are a few of key reasons why he’s sporting a record of 25-16 this season.

“For a big guy, I’m pretty quick and have a lot of stamina. That does help me a lot in matches because, by the third set, they’re usually hunched over and can barely breathe, but I’m OK and can keep my cool,” Armando says. “I know I have the better stamina at the end of the day. Once I have them tired out, I try a lot of snap-downs, and I’m able to push them down.”

Another one of Armando’s textbook maneuvers is called the granby. With this move, a wrestler rolls out from underneath his opponent to put himself in a better position to attack. Coach Tolla has been impressed with Armando’s ability to pull it off during bouts.

“For a larger-sized kid, he has amazing body control. It is very rare you see kids his size able to do a granby, and he does it very well,” Tolla says. “We’re very proud of his athletic ability, and he’s able to do this sophisticated roll. He’s made tremendous improvements.”

Armando is also serving as one of East Haven’s senior captains this season. Armando always looked up to the captains when he was an underclassman and wanted to be a leader for the Yellowjackets.

“Being a captain senior year is really important to me, because the team sees me as someone who can lead them into battle. They trust me, and I take that to heart, because they see the hard work I put in to try to bring the best I can to the team,” says Armando. “It feels great knowing the coaches see me as an extension of their staff and somebody they can count on.”

Armando is also a former recipient of East Haven’s Sportsmanship Award. Coach Tolla says that Armando is the Yellowjackets’ most vocal leader who has the respect of each and every one of his teammates.

“He’s the first kid on the mat to congratulate his teammates when they have success and the first guy to pick them up when they don’t have success. He’s a consummate role model for our team,” says Tolla. “He’s beloved by all our wrestlers and had a great personality. We’ve had some tremendous young men come through our program, and he’s right at the top of the list.”

Armando isn’t going to wrestle in college, but he hopes to stick around the East Haven wrestling team after he graduates from high school. He’s already thinking about the possibility of joining Yellowjackets’ coaching staff one day down the road.

“I don’t have plans to wrestle, but I’d like to be with the team at East Haven again,” he says. “I’d love to practice with them and love to be a part of the staff.”

PJ Foti covers sports for East Haven and North Branford for Zip06. Email PJ at

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