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When Head Coach Joseph Moran of the combined wrestling team of Jamesville-DeWitt/Christian Brothers Academy/Solvay and Westhill took his team captains out to breakfast this fall to discuss the upcoming season, they knew they had a shot at a very successful year. But what the squad was able to accomplish this season, junior Jake Wright “could have never imagined.”
The team finished with an impressive 16 wins and two losses on the season, with both losses coming to Section III powerhouse Fulton. J-D decisively defeated rival Phoenix, placed second at the Section III Championships, qualified four wrestlers for states, and finished eighth in New York State at the state tournament. Wright was the only wrestler from J-DHS to qualify for states. Coach Moran goes so far as to say that his team might have had their “most successful year in program history.”
But in what was “without a doubt” the team’s most statistically successful season, it isn’t any of the pin downs, the wins, or the appearances at the state tournament that make Coach Moran proud of his squad.
Instead, the team’s biggest feat this year is what Coach Moran calls “The Bench.” Early on in the season, Coach Moran created a team theme: winning the bench. “For dual meets, our team was to have the loudest and most exciting bench in the section,” says Coach Moran.
The concept of the constant cheering, chattering, and support was fully embraced by the team, and by the end of the season, other teams started to take notice. “Officials, parents, and coaches would approach me who could not believe our team chemistry and support,” says Coach Moran.
It was that support that pushed the team to excel so far this season. “Everyone was able to have an impact on the team, whether they were competing in the match or not,” says Wright.
Though the wrestling team is made up of four different schools, unity certainly was no issue for the squad this year. “When I first started coaching here at J-D, I knew I had to implement some sort of coaching philosophy, a foundation to work from,” says Coach Moran. That philosophy is simple: do the right thing, do everything to the best of your ability, and show people you care about them. The team bought in to following those three rules, and have been “brothers” ever since, says Wright.
Coach Moran’s fundamental beliefs一his three rule philosophy and “The Bench”一are what have enabled his combined squad to be so successful this season, says Wright.
“It’s pushed us so far this year and kept everyone in line and focused during practices this year,” says Wright. Practices, in Coach Moran’s own words, are “very intense.” “It truly is non-stop movement for two hours, and I constantly hold my wrestlers accountable for their effort at practice,” says Coach Moran.
As with every legitimate program, the team’s long term vision was to win sectionals, but Coach Moran and his wrestlers recognized that defeating Fulton would be a challenge. Though they weren’t able to defeat Fulton at their dual meet this year, the squad did pull off an upset against perennial powerhouse Phoenix. “Nobody ever beats Phoenix,” says sophomore Kelvin Huyhn. But J-D, coming in as the underdog, was able to win the “swing matches,” decisively extinguishing the Phoenix Firebirds 51-25. “The win against Phoenix definitely built up our confidence as a team,” says Jake Wright.
J-D met up with Fulton one more time at the Section III duals. In the end, J-D fell short of a win, but “the fire, the passion, and the energy,” of the team was unlike anything Coach Moran has experienced as a coach.
That fire stayed ignited into the end of the season, and the team’s bench helped get Wright hot at the sectional championships. Wright won the 160 pound weight class, defeating five wrestlers in his path and earning a berth in the state tournament.
Going into states, Wright knew his path to victory wouldn’t be as easy. “I knew it would be a lot tougher at states. I just wanted to get one win,” says Wright. In his first round of competition, Wright faced No. 1 seeded Ryan Ferro of Section IX. While he wasn’t able to secure a win against Ferro, who went on to win the state tournament, Wright did get the match win he wanted later in the tournament. After losing to Ferro, Wright was sent to the consolation bracket, where he pinned down his first competitor in less than a minute.
Though this season was the most successful in program history, Coach Moran thinks that next year his squad could have an even better shot at victory. “Next year, if the pieces fall into place, we could possibly be better than this year,” he said. Sophomore Adam Honis has the same optimism about next year. “We had a strong season and it’ll be exciting to see where it takes us next year,” said Honis. With most of the team’s wrestlers returning again next year, Wright says next season could be a good one. “Considering the season officially ended, I haven’t put much thought into it yet. I will tell you, though, a sectional title is on the horizon,” Coach Moran said.