EDISON, NJ - The South Plainfield High School wrestling team’s 2015-2016 season was an all-around successful year for a program that knows a lot about being successful. In the 14 years head coach Kevin McCann has been at the helm of the program, the team has collected a 302-40 record and an almost countless amount of silverware and accolades.
Earlier this month, the New Jersey State Coaches Association recognized McCann for his achievements by inducting him into their Hall of Fame.
McCann, who has 14 straight District 12 titles, seven Group 3 state titles, and 12 GMC titles to his name, told TapInto.net it was an honor to be put in the same category as so many great coaches across New Jersey sports.
“For them to pick me and recognize me, I was just really appreciative,” McCann said. The coach and the other 2016 inductees were honored at an April 10 ceremony at Pines Manor in Edison.
The team picked up its latest state title this year with a 27-25 win over defending champions Delsea. The Tigers went 28-2 on the season and qualified seven of its wrestlers for the individual state championships. Sophomore 106 pounder Joe Heilmann placed fifth in the state tournament, while freshman Zach DelVecchio placed seventh at 220 pounds. The team finished 2nd in the New Jersey Wrestling Coaches Association final statewide rankings of the season, finishing only behind Bergen Catholic.
It’d be a tall task to find any public school wrestling program in the state who can come close to matching South Plainfield. The head coach attributes that success to the wrestling-friendly environment that the South Plainfield community has fostered over the years.
“I think in South Plainfield, I’ve been blessed,” said McCann. “We have great parent support, great community support, and we have a great feeder program.”
He also gave thanks and credit to his assistant and volunteer coaches in John Foscolo, Steve Johnston, Matt Anderson, Steve Giordano, John Conroy.
McCann, who as an athlete won a state title for South Plainfield in 1991, and went on to become the team captain for the Rutgers wrestling team, said that the coaches of his youth were a big influence on him.
“(Former South Plainfield coaches) Mike Buggy, Bill Pavlak, Eugene Clapsis were my high school coaches and I also went out and wrestled at Rutgers under John Sacchi, so I’ve seen some great coaches,” he said.
“I have been able to pick and choose different things that I liked (from them) and kind of molded that into who I am.”
One of the biggest testament to South Plainfield’s success is its amount of wrestlers who’ve gone on to compete at the college level. This season, Anthony Ashnault, who went undefeated in his four years at South Plainfield, placed fourth in the NCAA Division I Championships at 141 pounds as a sophomore for Rutgers. Other alumni, like Troy Heilmann, Scott DelVecchio, and Ray Jazikoff are also currently having success at the college level. McCann said he takes pride in the fact the fact that he was able to help those young men lay the groundwork for a life of success, both on and off the mat.
“That’s what it’s all about. Helping mold these kids into young members of society who can make a difference,” said the coach. “That (our program) has helped them to get to college to do that is a great thing.”