By Rick Palsgrove
The Groveport Madison Cruiser varsity wrestling team has begun its quest to win its fourth straight Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division championship.
“Winning an OCC Capital Division title is definitely a goal for us again this season,” Brian Brison. “We know we have a lot of hard work ahead of us to reach that goal. Big Walnut, among other teams in the league, looks to be tough.”
Brison said the team focuses on “the little things that lead up to the bigger things.”
“We focus on getting better at a specific move,” said Brison. “We talk about how a move needs to be executed to beat great competition. We talk about how to get better in a variety of situations. We talk about how to improve on our weaknesses and to make our strengths even more special. If we do all of the little things right, when it’s all said and done, we will be where we want to be.”
This year’s Cruiser wrestling team is loaded with talent.
“It is difficult to name two or three guys who are my top guys,” said Brison. “Jake Nelson is a two-time district placer and will be returning at 220 pounds.
A.J. Joyce is also a two-time district qualifier and will be moving down a weight class to 195 this year. Muhamad Conteh and Jason Pinkston are also returning district qualifiers. I really like a lot of the talent on our team and I am excited to see a lot of improvements from last year. It is really difficult not to list off 10 guys.”
Brison said one of the team’s many strengths is the high character individuals on the team who work hard every day to improve.
“When looking at a potential starting line-up we may have nine starters who did not wrestle before high school,” said Brison. “Their ability to come in with an open mind, be coachable, and constantly work to improve, has been key to their development.”
Leadership is another strength of the team.
“I really like the leadership on my team,” said Brison. “Muhamad Conteh, Skyler Mouser, and A.J. Joyce are doing a great job in setting the tone for this team. They take their job as captains seriously and are always talking guys up and demonstrating how you need to work in practice. I look for all of these guys to have outstanding seasons.”
Regarding the strengths of the Cruisers’ opponents in the OCC Capital Division this year, Brison said it’s difficult to predict who is the team to beat.
“New Albany and Newark lost a lot of good wrestlers from last year,” said Brison. “Big Walnut has some really good wrestlers returning and should be tough Canal Winchester has had really strong junior high teams in recent years and might be able to put together a really strong team.”
In addition to several dual meets on this year’s schedule, the Cruisers will also participate in several multi-team invitationals.
“I’m thinking that the Canal Winchester Invitational will be pretty tough as many teams will be looking for a tournament at that point in the season,” said Brison. “Historically, the Miami Trace and the West Jefferson Invitationals have been very challenging with a lot of state qualifiers and state placers participating.”
Brison said wrestling in tournaments is important because wrestlers need to get used to wrestling multiple matches in a day because that is what they will be doing in the post season.
“They need to learn what it means to progress through pools or brackets and how certain losses can affect their day,” said Brison. “Invitationals also provide us with an opportunity to gain a lot of experience. With a lot of guys not wrestling before high school, that mat time is crucial to their development.”
When asked if there are plans for the Cruisers to host their own invitational, Brison said, “We hosted one last year in January and will host one again this season on Jan. 4. It looks to be a solid tournament with Mount Vernon, River Valley, Teays Valley, Mifflin, Columbus Academy, Hamilton Township, and Whitehall in attendance.”
The Cruiser wrestling program has a long and storied tradition of success dating back to the 1960s.
“It’s great to win in a place that is passionate about your sport,” said Brison. “Last season we wrestled New Albany in what was essentially a league championship match. The home side was nearly packed and it was so loud and intense that I could hardly hear anything at all. Coaching in that kind of environment is an unbelievable experience. I am proud of all of the teams I’ve coached at Groveport and I am excited to have the opportunity to continue to add to our wrestling tradition.”
The 2019-20 Groveport Madison Cruiser varsity wrestling schedule: Dec. 7, at Granville Invitational; Dec. 14, at Logan Invitational; Dec. 19, at Teays Valley; Dec. 27, at West Jefferson Invitational; Jan. 4, Groveport Madison Invitational; Jan. 9, at Canal Winchester; Jan. 16, Franklin Heights; Jan. 18, at Heath Invitational; Jan. 23, Big Walnut; Jan. 25, at McDonald’s/Miami Trace Invitational; Jan. 30, at New Albany; Feb. 13, Newark; Feb. 15, at Canal Winchester Invitational.