RANDOLPH, NJ- In the final season for Randolph coach Mike Suk, senior Matt DeStefanis and junior Evan Cannon joined the longtime coach on the weekend of Mar. 5-8 to compete at the NJSIAA State Wrestling Championships in Atlantic City. Team Captain Charlie Treston was also on a path this season to be competing at the tournament, but an ankle injury ended his season early.
For both DeStefanis and Cannon, the trip to AC to represent their team and their town, is a story of redemption. DeStefanis was a statewide star as a freshman, with over 30 wins in his first season of HS wrestling, but he finished just short of AC when he came up fifth in Regions. Having been a wrestler most of his life and putting in countless hours of time and effort training and competing, he suddenly had a change of heart. When the season was over, he decided he had burned out, so he hung it all up.
After two years away from the sport, DeStefanis got an itch in his senior year to give it one more go around.
“Coming back this year has been a lot of fun, it was awesome to be part of a team again and it was great working with my coaches throughout the year,” said DeStefanis. “I haven’t really been concerned with winning or losing, I just have been embracing and being grateful for the opportunity to compete this year.”
With a record of 37-2, the winning has certainly followed the fun.
“My mindset going into the weekend is just to stay loose and have some fun,” said DeStefanis. “I am just grateful for this last opportunity to compete this weekend and excited to leave it all out on the mat.”
For Cannon, his redemption is all about hard work and commitment and completely turning his results around.
“Earning my way to AC this year really means a lot to me because I have been an underdog this entire season,” said Cannon. “Coming from a losing record last year at 14-20, I feel like my work is finally starting to pay off.”
The proof of Cannon’s hard work is evident in the results, as the junior has posted a record this year of 20-9, to which he credits coach Mike Suk as a big part of helping him grow.
“Coach Suk is a man of pure honesty, if he says something to you it’s never sugar coated and in my eyes that deserves a lot of respect,” said Cannon. “After being such a role model to myself and all the other wrestlers he has earned a special place in all of our hearts as a man we can look to when we have problems or just general questions.
For Treston, this year marks the second straight season an ankle injury derailed his train to AC.
“This season was pretty dry for me, tournament wise I wasn't able to prove my worth, and because of the fractured ankle I got during my match against Sparta, I was not able to compete in any of the post-season tournaments,” said Treston. “I fell short of one of my goals, obtaining 100 career wins, finishing with a 97-41 record overall.”
After going 27-10 as a junior, Treston was 19-7 this year before the injury.
Despite the disappointing end to his season, there was still a lot of value in the season for both Treston and his younger teammates.
“As captain, leading a young team was definitely a different experience as the majority of the kids came into this season with little to no experience on the mat,” said Treston. “Every time I tried to leave an imprint, Coach Suk's words would echo in my mind. I was told to bring the culture back into the room, I was told to teach my teammates how to be tough and face adversity.”
Treston will continue to forge ahead in the sport he loves, as he plans to compete as a freshman next fall at Sacred Heart.
For Suk, this season was a different experience having such a young team, and in some ways, it was a “back to basics” approach.
“Each day we taught and drilled, taught them how to compete, how to approach training, how to grow up, mental and physical toughness, discipline, character, and how to believe in themselves- all aspects of being an athlete,” said Suk. “Thankfully we have two great captains in Matt DeStefanis and Charlie Treston to lead them and set the absolute best example for the team each and every day.”
This season was a Swan Song of sorts for Suk, who will be retiring from coaching after this season.
“After 35 years as a head coach - 10 at my alma mater Somerville , 25 at Randolph and my first year as an assistant at Glassboro high - I will miss the challenges , kids, teaching of life skills, competition, families, and all that goes into the great sport of wrestling,” said Suk. “My love and passion for coaching this sport are as strong today as when I first started. I have great assistants and know the program will be in great hands.”
Suk said he looks forward to hiking the Appalachian Trail with his Husky Nala and will spend more time with his wife visiting their three kids. He expressed excitement about training all his future grand kids. He also stated that he plans to continue teaching at Randolph high school, stating, “I enjoy making a difference in our young people’s lives each day.”
Suk concluded with a message on what his time coaching has meant to him.
“It has been an honor to coach wrestling here at Randolph for a quarter century and 10 at Somerville,” said Suk. We have taken great pride in building our wrestling family K-12. I have respected, appreciated, and enjoyed the relationships between not only the kids I have coached but also the families of those kids as well. I will cherish those memories forever.”