Coming into the 2015-2016 season, the Pirates wrestling team had a new face at the helm as Mike McConnell took over the program after quite a few seasons as an assistant.
The Pirates had 14 wrestlers seeded for the District 26 Tournament and sent nine of them to Region 7. Two wrestlers were crowned District 26 champions (Shaun Davilla – 170 and Keith Swartley – 285). Swartley went on to win the Region 7 title at 285 pounds to compete in the state tournament.
“Having had 9 guys make it to regions with 2 champions as juniors and one runner up was a sophomore the future looks very bright,” McConnell said. “Swartley has shown what hard work and lifting in the off season will do for you. He has also inspired some guys to work to make it to AC so they can join him next year. Keith is a great student athlete and he will surely go places in the future.”
Cinnaminson finished second as a team at the District 26 Tournament.
“After last year, only losing three seniors, one would think we were going to have a great year again, but then we lost Anthony Pencook in his second match at the Nottingham Tournament and Tyler Addlesberger was out before the season even started,” McConnell said. “So now we are down five starters and we needed some ex-JV guys to grow up fast. They did just that and for those guys that were first-year varsity it was a great accomplishment.”
Last season the Pirates won the Central, Group 1 crown before falling in the Group 1 State semifinals to Paulsboro. This year the Pirates wrestled in the South, Group 2 section, falling to West Deptford in the semifinal round.
“I think they learned that they can wrestle at that level,” McConnell said of his wrestlers competing in SJ2. “The West Deptford match came down to a few moments in a few matches and if we fix up those details and stay healthy next year I think we will have a run at the sectional title. I would like to get back to the Group 2 State Semifinals again and this time get a win while we are there.”
“In hindsight, I believe that Shawnee was a nice win since we were missing TJ (Emanuel) at 106,” McConnell said. “I also was happy we beat Pemberton by the margin that we did when we were missing Ryan Teague and Jahmil Williams from the lineup. To have a small program and be missing guys is to be expected and other guys need to pick up the slack for them and come up big to make up for the loss of points at a spot where we could win if not for an injury or skin condition.”
The win over Haddonfield was the biggest of the regular season for the Pirates. Coming into the day, Haddonfield was positioned to be the number-one in the SJ2 bracket.
“The signature win was probably Haddonfield even though they were short some guys from their lineup,” McConnell said. “We had to overcome the fact that Jahmil was winning his match and ended up getting choked out (it was a legal hold, but very tight) and ended up pinned. He went out while bellied down and after going limp was being called for a pin.”
“Mike Dunleavy beat Bateman, who he lost to at the EHT tournament, and then Liam Wharton came in at 170 to major Murray, who was much stronger and bigger on the scale. That match bumped us ahead of them for the playoffs and ranking in the region, so I would have to say that the Haddonfield match really gave the boys a chance to show what they were made of.”
Two of the more entertaining wins of the year came against rival Delran. At the first match of the season, in Delran’s gym, the Pirates won the final three bouts (two pins and a major decision) to shock the Bears. The second meeting, in the first round of the playoffs, the Pirates absolutely dominated the Bears 44-18.
A host of wrestlers found spots in the varsity lineup for the first time this year and all of them picked up big wins throughout the season. As for the most improved wrestlers, McConnell liked what he saw from Dunleavy and Andrew Halecki.
“Mike Dunleavy improved a lot with being physical and using good set ups when he shoots. Andrew Halecki did not hit a move all last season, but was very hard to score on. He worked on his offense and got much better at initiating set ups and moves that he got some big wins.”
Check Cinn City Sports tomorrow for the Top 5 Wrestling Matches of 2015-2016.
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