This past winter, the Cougars’ roster included 22 Middle School competitors: 21 boys and one girl.
“It was really exciting to see such a nice turnout,” said athletic director Karen Doxey. “The Middle Schoolers really embraced the sport. They were open to learning and saw a lot of improvement. This is a great base from which to develop the program into the future.”
Ten Cub-level wrestlers were new to the sport.
“I’m a lacrosse player, and I’d heard from (boys’ varsity lacrosse) Coach (Andrew) Stanley that wrestling was a good way to get in shape,” said Michael West, an 8th grader whose only previous wrestling experience had been with the MatCats program when he was in Lower School. “Every day, going out there and wrestling was just a ton of fun. I love contact sports. Wrestling is all contact. It’s like hand fighting but not hurting someone.
“The matches can be stressful. It’s one-on-one against another guy. You’re putting it all on the line. There’s definitely a lot of pressure, but you come out of it a totally different, tougher person.”
While most of the Cub wrestlers competed solely against other Middle School athletes, eighth grader Noah Williams saw regular action at the junior varsity level while three of his teammates competed in at least one JV match.
Twelve Collegiate wrestlers medaled in the Fat Tuesday Classic, an end-of-season tournament at Norfolk Academy which included more than 200 athletes from 15 schools competing in a round-robin format. Six – West, Silas Gwathmey, Fitz Stanley, Everett Hatfield, Eric Zyglocke, and Karl Kastenbaum – won their weight classes. Six – Daniel Johnsrud, Charlie Nanavati, Jax Lou, Porter Montague, Ted Morano, and Eve Clemans – placed second.
“Our performance was the best example of the hard work we put in in practice and during our jamborees,” said Andrew Vigne, head Cub wrestling coach. “To have so many wrestlers finish so high is an amazing accomplishment and shows how much they grew over the season.
“The new wrestlers were able to pick up the sport quickly as wrestling uses many of the same athletic movements they were used to from other sports. They wanted a challenge and excelled because of their athleticism and hard work. It will be exciting to see how this group of kids progresses in the coming years as they continue to learn and improve on the mat.”
Mac Friddell, a standout Collegiate (Class of ’02) and Princeton wrestler, works with Vigne. The Cougars head varsity coach from 2012-2018, Friddell understands well the benefit of a strong feeder program.
“We had a bunch of guys who competed hard in the (wrestling) room,” Friddell said. “I hope they’ll carry that to the varsity level. Obviously, the intensity will pick up when you get into high school. Getting some wins under your belt and experiencing success when you’re young build confidence. Having a solid base to work from is really important.”
Head varsity coach Andy Stone was a state champ (119-pound weight class) at Bowie (MD) High and later wrestled for the University of Tennessee and the New York Athletic Club. He later built successful teams at Poquoson (VA) High and Brookwood (AL) High and sees as positive the influx of Middle Schoolers.
“The foundation of everything we do at the varsity level,” he said, “is getting kids who enjoy the movement, hard work, and physicality of the sport and developing their skills at an early age. Once you start getting a good group of kids, it begins to develop its own momentum and creates the kind of culture that we need.”