Rule No. 1: Don’t get hurt.
Rule No. 2: Follow rule No. 1.
Those are two rules that St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy coach Pat Flynn has for his wrestlers during practice.
Granted, there are probably several more rules Flynn has too but those two specifically are instrumental for the Wolves. The program is in its fourth year of existence and has a total of six wrestlers on the roster — triple the amount the squad had last season.
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Flynn and his wrestlers don’t look at it as a disadvantage.
Jacob Powers, who was is one of the older guys on the team as a sophmore, set a couple program standards last year. He became St. Joseph’s first District 6 placewinner after falling to Penns Valley’s Darren Yearick in the 113-pound finals. With that finish, he also became the school’s first regional qualifier.
“I love it,” said Powers of the boost in numbers. “It’s awesome having more kids and partners. These kids are all really good local wrestlers. It’s really competitive in practice. It’s so much better than last year.”
The Wolves got a big addition in the offseason in Trey Millward and have four freshmen on the roster: Evan Courts, Caleb Dowling, Julian Simmons and Ethan Kaufman.
Millward is the lone senior on the team and comes to the program after transferring from State College to Grace Prep. Grace Prep and St. Joseph’s run several co-op programs for sports, including wrestling.
“It’s a lot nicer just to have a small group of guys,” Millward said. “We are really close to each other. We all know each other really well. It makes practice a lot more effective with that fact that Flynn can watch us closely. It’s really easy to work on our technique.”
Courts echoed Millward’s thoughts.
“I used to go to a big public school,” Courts said. “We had a lot of kids on the wrestling team, but there was very few that were dedicated. I’d rather be on a team that has a smaller amount of kids that are all dedicated to the sport rather than a big group of kids that are not.”
Flynn was hired by the school four years ago after coaching at the collegiate level for Navy, Franklin & Marshall and James Madison. He also was a coach at Bellefonte for several years, working under current coach Mike Maney. In 2007, he was named the PIAA’s assistant coach of the year.
“It’s a matter of individualizing everything,” Flynn said of having a smaller team. “It’s the same concepts, fine tuning Jacob Powers, Evan Courts or Trey or whoever the case may be. The training method is always the same, try to outwork the guy.
“These guys are outworking everybody in the classroom, which is great. Hopefully, we can be able to out work guys on the mat.”
Flynn said he runs voluntary morning practices. He also allows his guys to go to different club practices too and lift two to three days a week. The team doesn’t have a wrestling room. Former Olympian and Penn State wrestler Ken Chertow opens his Home Training Center in Boalsburg up to the Wolves to have a room to practice in. The school pitches in by shuttling the team there.
If you were to take in a St. Joseph’s practice, Flynn’s head looks like it is on a swivel. One moment, he’s watching Kaufman hit a double-leg takedown. The next, he’s keeping an eye on if Millward is moving his feet. They have an 1 1/2 hour practice so Flynn has 15 minutes he can focus on one wrestler at a time. In a bigger room, coaches are lucky to get five minutes.
“It’s great. Rome wasn’t built in a day,” Flynn said. “You can’t make them state champs today, but it’s the building blocks that will get us there. Trey’s skill set and physical set is different than Ethan’s skill set and physical set. You have to treat your 106-pounder way different than your 145-pounder, not in discipline but in skill-level wise.”
The Wolves aren’t your typical dual team with their entire season comprising of individual tournaments. They competed in the Sheetz Holiday Classic hosted by Penn Cambria the week before Christmas.
Last week, they competed in the nationally known Mount Mat Madness in Baltimore, Md. Mount Mat Madness brings out some of the top high school and prep programs in the country, with Blair Academy being one of them.
With all of the “tournament wrestling,” St. Joseph’s really has a leg up on the competition when it comes to being prepared for the District 6, regional and PIAA tournaments at the end of February.
“When you’re wrestling tournaments, your body gets used to wrestling match after match throughout the day,” Courts said. “You get to work on making weight for the second day as well rather than weighing in and then eating as much as you want.”
Millward added: “I also like the fact that it shows how in shape and conditioned we are. You see these bigger teams that it seems like a lot of their guys getting really tired in their second or third match in the day. I didn’t see that at all with us.”
In about two weeks, St. Joseph’s will get its first taste of a dual match when it competes in the Juniata Dual Tournament.
For Flynn, he doesn’t care about his record as a coach. He is just trying to get his guys ready for the postseason.
“Hopefully, this is a guaranteed five matches for each guy,” Flynn said. “My record is 0-0 right now. Maybe we go 0-5 or maybe we go 1-4, who knows. The wins and losses will come in time. I’m not really worried about it. If we go 0-5 at the Juniata tournament but every kid is 6-0 that’s a win in my book.”