SPOTSWOOD, NJ - It hasn't been the best of times on the mat for the Spotswood High School varsity wrestling team--more like the worst. The Chargers have a 3-13 overall record on the season and a 2-5 record in conference play. Their only wins have come against Highland Park High School, Metuchen High School and Princeton High School.
With four meets left, the team has dropped seven in a row. However, the season is not without bright spots as they endure a rebuilding season on the mat.
Coach Daniel Krainski has been at the helm of the Spotswood High School wrestling program for five years. The popular Physical Education teacher at the high school is a former wrestler himself. So, he certainly understands the physical and mental demands of the sport.
"Usually, wrestling practices are the hardest things people endure," Krainski said in a recent interview. "Practices are a mix of cardiovascular and strength training through wrestling specific drills."
Yet, despite the rough road for the 2016-17 season, the Charger coach pointed to the positives of this year's campaign.
"Our team is in the process of rebuilding," Krainski continued. "Some positive highlights of the year is going from last season ending the year with 14 wrestlers to this year having 28 wrestlers and having up to six freshmen in and out of the varsity lineup. With the schedule we wrestle, we knew that wins would not come easy. We easily could have 6-8 wins by now. Unfortunately in wrestling, it comes down to match-ups and we are learning on the fly with our young wrestlers. We did have two wrestlers this past weekend place in the top five in their respective weight classes."
The Greater Middlesex Conference Wrestling Tournament began on Jan. 27 and ran through last weekend at Piscataway High School. South Plainfied High School won its 24th title behind six of their wrestlers winning their weight classes. The Chargers had two wrestlers come in the top five of their weight classes. Junior Shea Obado placed third in the 152-pound weight class while Michael LeRoy placed fifth in the 170-pound weight class.
While forfeits are an integral part of New Jersey High School wrestling. They are often a sign of a team devoid of wrestlers to participate in the designated weight classes. Fans and wrestlers are annoyed by them, but they are a matter of course, especially for smaller group one and two high schools, which tend to field smaller teams. Another positive for the Chargers wrestling squad has been the influx of participants, who will only improve with experience.
"The newcomers haven't made a tremendous impact as far as wins and loses, but have brought variety into the room," Krainski said. "We have 12 freshmen and six other first year wrestlers this season. These guys have made the practice room more competitive and have also rejuvenated our staff as well as we continue to get back to the basics of wrestling. The more these guys wrestle, the better we will become."
Two of Krainski's seasoned wrestlers, Brandon Grover and Justin Thompson will be graduating in June. Thompson's season ended prematurely with a broken thumb. The senior was a three-year starter for the varsity squad. Grover is a four-year starter for the Chargers and placed fourth in last year's NJSIAA District Tournament. The Helmetta native is hoping to extend his final high school wrestling season by qualifying for regionals. Due to their record, the Chargers will not qualify for the state tournament as a team.
The Chargers have four regular season matchups left, beginning with a home meet on Groundhog Day against South Brunswick High School at 6 p.m. Their final home meet will be on February 7 against Lawrence High School. The Chargers will travel to Perth Amboy High School on February 9. Their final meet of the season will be at John F. Kennedy Memorial High School on February 11. The NJSIAA District Wrestling Tournament begins on Saturday, February 18 at Hillsborough High School.