Led by a talented group of middleweights, the Collingswood High School wrestling team is ready to win now. Thanks to a thriving youth program, the Panthers are also set up for long-term success.
The combination of the two has head coach Declan Moody pumped up about entering the winter wrestling season.
“We are excited,” Moody said. “We should have a good year if we stay healthy. We have a lot of depth, so even if guys do get banged up we have other guys that can step in. It has been nice having these guys battling for positions.”
Moody spoke in front of a packed wrestling room—something that has become the norm thanks to a feeder program that has grown substantially in recent years. Moody expects to have around 40 wrestlers to work with this season, an increase of 10 from a year ago.
“Our youth program is phenomenal,” Moody said. “We have like 90 kids in our youth program and we have 30 kids in our middle school program. It’s the feeder program that is doing it. They do a lot of offseason stuff.”
Moody is counting on his middleweights to provide the team with consistent scoring. Alex Irwin returns fresh off a district championship, while Mike Campbell wrestled his way to the Region 7 Tournament. John Deaner and Pat Miles are also looking for big success. The lightweights will be headlined by Donnie Daley and Zane Gunko, Moody said.
The one area of concern for Collingswood is its youth and inexperience at several positions. Collingswood has just three seniors—Irwin, Daley and Forley Gunby—so there may be a couple of rough patches early in the season.
The schedule-makers did the Panthers no favors either, as Collingswood opens with contests against Haddon Township and West Deptford.
“It’s a tough way to open the season, but if we can have a couple of good showings we will know how good we are right away,” Moody said.
Many of the Panthers' wrestlers traveled with the team to Florida over the summer and received a chance to compete against schools from wrestling-rich states like Iowa and Indiana. The Panthers only won five of 15 matches during their time down south, but more importantly, got the opportunity to come together as a team.
“I think it bonds them as a team really well,” Moody said. “They got to know each other. It was more about bonding then wrestling.”
Moody said the expectations are higher than ever entering this season. If things fall right, the Panthers could be one of the top three or four teams in the Colonial Conference, sending multiple wrestlers to the Region 7 Tournament.
“We are very young and we do have some holes,” Moody said. “We should be better than last year, and last year we had about 25 wins. This year we think we can have more than that.
“We are going to be tough to beat if we put it all together, so I’m excited,” he said.