Depth and balance are two words that were spoken of often by wrestling coaches Bill Heverly, of Haddonfield, and Brian Farnham, of Haddon Township. With the wrestling season just a couple of weeks away from opening, both coaches believe they have wealth of wrestlers ready to collectively help their teams to great things.
“I think our strength is our balance,” Farnham said. “This is probably the most balanced team I have coached. We don’t have a superstar like Steve Nelson, but we are really strong across the board. We have a lot of kids who are going to have strong seasons.”
Nelson was one of the most decelerated wrestlers in Hawks’ history. He placed second in the state at 170 pounds last year, suffering his only loss of the season (36-1) in the finals. He finished with a career record of 136-16.
Haddon Township does return four wrestlers who won at least 20 matches last season, led by senior Mike McCutcheon, who was 29-12. Brian Navarro and Tim Wolf each won 25 matches, while Connor Wade won 23. Jason Martinak, Nick Weiss, Eric Rodriguez and Sean Jones also return after winning seasons.
“I’m pleased with our depth and the competition in our room,” said Farnham, who has 41 wrestlers on the squad.
The Hawks open up preseason with a tournament in the Pine Barrens against Shawnee, Cherokee and Delran.
“I think you use preseason tournaments to work on your match wrestling and see where you are at technique-wise and what you need to work on,” Farnham said. “The preseason tournaments and holiday tournaments give coaches a great idea of where we need to work, where we are strong and where we are weak as a team.”
Heverly is equally pleased with the competition he is seeing in the practice room at Haddonfield. Like the Hawks, the Bulldawgs believe they have a complete roster this year and few areas of weakness.
“We have so much competition right now, it’s hard to say who the guys we are going to lean on are,” said Heverly. “One of the best things about this team is how many guys could contribute. The guys are really pushing each other for varsity spots.”
Henry Klaus is the most accomplished wrestler for the Bulldawgs, coming off a 21-win season. Jacob Klaus, Nate Finnegan and Charlie O’Neil also found success last season. Heverly also expressed excitement over a handful of freshmen who he believes could see varsity time right away.
“It’s been a real good preseason so far,” Heverly said. “They have been working really hard in the room and you can tell they are hungry for the season to get started. We are a team that should be competitive and be in the mix.”
There will be plenty of competition in the Colonial Conference with no fewer than five teams figuring to be at the top of the standings. Paulsboro returns almost its entire varsity core and could be one of the top two teams in South Jersey, according to Farnham. Meanwhile, West Deptford is the defending Liberty Division champions (after beating Haddonfield for the first time in more than a decade last season) and Collingswood is on the rise.
Even with all the competition, both local squads once again looking poised for a winning year and should send a handful of wrestlers on to the postseason.