Wrestling Team Looks for Third Straight Division crown in 2016-2017

Senior Keith Swartley stuffs an opponent’s head in a match last season.

Matt Stavalone, Staff Writer

As the winter sports season is coming up, the boys’ wrestling team is getting set for the 2016-17 season. Though the team has lost many wrestlers from last year, they will look to move past that and defend the Patriot Division title that the team won for a second consecutive season after defeating arch-rival Delran again last season.

The team has lost about half of their wrestlers from last year due to graduation, other sports or athletes quitting the team, but according to Head Coach Michael McConnell, he feels that the losses will not affect the performance of the team, and is feeling very optimistic about the upcoming season.

“I would say that at any given time, when anybody steps on the mat, we expect them to win. I think that’s how the guys feel about their own performance. They expect to win. Even if we don’t win any given match our goal is always just to get better every day. Whether or not we have a team full of undefeated guys or we have a team full of guys that lose any given match, the goal is to get better and learn from those losses. I think that our main issue is just as long as we can stay healthy and continue to improve where we’re young and perform to the level we’re capable of, where we’re experienced, that good things are going to happen this year.”

Mr. McConnell also said that he feels that the team is stronger than it has ever been, despite the loss of many of their wrestlers. This is due to the surplus of freshman that will wrestle on varsity, and the talent of the returning wrestlers.

He believes that “…we have a lot of athletes that are willing to work very hard and that’s what it really takes to have a successful program.” He went on to say that if the team is willing to put in the work that’s necessary to excel, he feels very optimistic about the season ahead.

A key part of the team’s success the past few seasons will be seen through the performance of Keith Swartley. Keith, a senior, will be wrestling his final year at Cinnaminson, and is looking to make the final year of his Cinnaminson career a memorable one after coming off an outstanding 35-2 season from a year ago.

Last year, Swartley tore through everyone he saw in the regular season, as he went undefeated going into states, winning the district and section title for a second consecutive season. Unfortunately, he ended up going 2-2 in states and did not place, losing two one-point decisions.

When asked about his goals for his final run, he replied, “My goal is to win states. Go farther than I did last year.” He feels that the team will also do fine this year, despite the loss in about half of the team. “I think we’ll do fine. We just have to wrestle our matches.” If the team performs to the level that they are capable of, they should be good for the season, in the eyes of the senior wrestler.

Keith started off the season in great fashion by winning the Nottingham tournament.  Swartley won the heavyweight title last weekend with a 15-5 major decision win over Anthony Goodman, of Marple Newton High School in Pennsylvania, in the final.

Some of the other top wrestlers for the team this year are juniors Ryan Teague and Jahmil Williams, two young men who won titles at this weekend’s Nottingham tournament.  Teague, coming off a 22-9 season last year, pinned Matt Mustillo, of Manalapan, in 58 second to win the 145-pound championship at the tournament.  Williams won his title at 138 pounds with a 3-2 decision and helped the team to finish third with 152 points. Manalapan won the team title with 209 points.

There has been a change in districts this year, although. Schools as far as Tom’s River are now in the hunt with Cinnaminson, but according Keith, it should not be a problem for Cinnaminson. When asked of his thoughts about the change of districts, and the effect it will have on him, he replied, “It does not affect anyone. You wrestle everyone just the same. You wrestle every state champ like they’re a chump and you wrestle every chump like they are a state champ. It does not affect the way you wrestle, as long as you wrestle your match.”

The Pirates, who were ranked 14th in South Jersey in the 2015-16 season according to “Wrestling Full Circle,” which covers and ranks all South Jersey wrestling teams and individuals will be battling with the division rival Delran Bears for the Patriot Division title. Even though Cinnaminson has lost a lot of depth from last season, Coach McConnell still has good feelings for the season, and will once again look to lead the team to the Patriot Division title for the Pirates.  Currently “Wrestling Full Circle” has the boys ranked as the ninth-best team in South Jersey.

Other wrestlers who have been key for the Pirates in the past and who will have an impact on the team again this year are seniors Jarrod Averill, Joe Saxton, Andrew Halecki and Joe Cody.  Currently, “Wrestling Full Circle” has Cody ranked fourth among all 220-lb wrestlers in South Jersey for this season.  Sophomores Jahsir Williams and Shane Spence, along with junior Liam Wharton, will add depth a team that suffered some serious defections with the loss of two returning starters, so experience will be key for the Pirates..

The date on the calendar all wrestling fans will want to circle is Wednesday, February 1, when the Pirates host Delran at 6 p.m. in what surely will be the battle for the Patriot Division crown.