The Trinity Classical Academy wrestling program may be young and small, but the results of last year’s campaign have shown the Knights are on the upswing.
The team, now in its fifth year of existence, had the majority of wrestlers qualify for last season’s CIF-SS postseason. This time around, Trinity returns with a bigger roster of nine wrestlers – up by two from last year – and a drive to match.
“Our team got super excited for the season this year, especially the new guys who really improved by the end of the season and wanted more,” said senior Sumner Howell.
Howell, a four-year wrestler and the only senior on the squad, placed first in the Heritage League in the 138-pound weight class last year and reached the third round of the CIF state tournament.
This season, he’ll be wrestling at 152, but coach Jim Johnson is “expecting big things.”
Sumner’s experience has naturally led him to a leadership role.
“At first I was discouraged that I would be the only senior on the team, but I began to see this as an experience to mentor other teammates and lead the team as captain,” he said.
“It’s a great feeling to have the younger guys look up to me and ask for tips and advice on and off the mat. At times I even feel like another coach.”
Howell’s cousin Will Howell, a junior, is returning to the Knights this season after taking his sophomore season off and brings additional experience to the team.
Johnson also indicated that Alex Moser and Ben McGillicuddy are two of the hardest workers on the team and will develop into quality wrestlers after a few more matches.
Five wrestlers entered the season without ever touching a mat. To help them grow, this year’s focus has been on fundamentals and technique.
“We’ve focused on the movements over and over and over and hoping that becomes second nature,” Johnson, who is in his second year as head coach, said. “I want to be as fundamentally sound as possible so that we have a foundation to build on for seasons to come.”
Johnson and former head coach Chris Leigh have brought different styles of wrestling to the program, which has proven beneficial. While Johnson teaches traditional techniques, Leigh specialized in freestyle wrestling, similar to the Olympic standard.
“(Leigh) had a different style of wrestling which is fantastic because a lot of kids don’t carry that style,” said Johnson. “It’s really benefited to have both the styles.”
The Knights’ first league match is on Jan. 26. A repeat of last season’s success is crucial to the progress of the future.
“We’re only graduating one senior, so if we could come back with 10-plus guys, that would be fantastic,” Johnson. “Then we’re going to have something we never had, which is eight guys with experience.”