After perhaps the greatest season in Canon-McMillan wrestling history, what does a head coach do to prepare his wrestlers for the following year?
First, Chris Mary spent what little free time he has now to help out in the production of “Foxcatcher,” a movie about the life and murder of Olympic wrestling great Dave Schultz by John du Pont, which is being filmed in Washington County and stars Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum.
Don’t worry, it didn’t interfere with practice time or Mary’s work schedule. It did leave him bleary-eyed from lack of sleep.
“Last week was absolute hell,” said Mary. “I had committed to working on the movie and ... went two days without sleeping.”
Next, Mary made sure this year’s schedule was as hard, if not harder, than the one from last year. When the scholastic season opens this weekend, the Big Macs will compete in three elite events in as many weeks: the Ironman, which will be held Friday and Saturday at Walsh Jesuit High School in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio; the Reno Tournament of Champions, one of the top events in the nation, Dec. 14-15 at the Reno Events Center; and the Powerade Christmas Wrestling Tournament, which will be held Dec. 28-29 in the Big Macs’ gymnasium.
“We’re staying with the same goals as last year,” said Mary. “We’ll hold the kids accountable. We’re shooting for our fourth WPIAL title, and the ultimate goal is to win a state tournament.”
Consider the Big Macs’ accomplishments last season:
n The Big Macs routed North Allegheny for their third consecutive WPIAL Class AAA title.
n In one of the greatest dual meets wrestled in some time, C-M defeated Central Dauphin, 28-25, in the semifinals of the PIAA Team Tournament. It was a matchup of the top two teams in the state.
n Canon-McMillan beat Erie McDowell, 35-20, to capture its first team title in this event.
n In the individual tournament, the Big Macs repeated as team champions – the PIAA awards two team titles, one at its team event and one at the individual tournament – by outdistancing Central Dauphin by 35 points.
n Also at the individual tournament, C-M had eight medalists. The unusual part to that was it had a first-place finisher in Cody Wiercioch, a second-place in Connor Schram, a third in Solomon Chishko, a fourth in Dalton Macri, a fifth in Alex Campbell, a sixth in Cody Klempay, a seventh in Dario Dobbin and an eighth in Colt Shorts.
“The kids are excited,” Mary said of the upcoming season. “This is a whole different season and a different focus.”
Five wrestlers – Shorts, Klempay, Dobbin, Zach Thomas and Ian Binotto – were lost to graduation. But Wiercioch is back and hunting for his second straight gold medal and third in his career in Hershey. Though Chishko suffered a fractured elbow at last month’s Super 32 tournament in Greensboro, N.C., and won’t return until mid-January, the lineup is still overwhelming.
The graduation losses and injury to Chishko leaves a chance for some others to step up. Junior Alec Hutchin (7-2 last season) and senior Steve LaFrance (10-7 at 195) will have larger roles, and newcomer Alex Broglia steps in at heavyweight.
“There is still a lot of fire in the stove,” said Mary. “We’re going to train hard, build chemistry and count on our leaders.”
On The Web
For preseason team rankings, and a preview of each area team, go to http://joesmatmatters.blogspot.com/