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The Journals are the premier publications for high-quality, hyperlocal news and advertising in Monmouth County, New Jersey

Jun 10, 2021

Thompson Wrestling Completes Season in Challenging COVID-19 Environment

By Les Pierce

Michael Chappell, undefeated this season

When the school year began last fall, there were serious doubts that middle school sports could be held. Area middle school wrestling programs were postponed several weeks as a safety precaution. The strategy worked as the Thompson wrestling squad was able to complete an eight-match season in good health.

Several schools were unable to field a complete roster across all weight classes. Due to this issue, it was decided that there would be no team scoring this season in the Middle School Shore Conference League.

The absence of a team championship opportunity was not an issue. Continued improvement of the athlete’s skills and preparation of the eighth-grade students for varsity competition next year was the paramount goals of 2021. Those goals were achieved –a major victory for every team in the conference.

Seventh-grader Michael Chappell led the Lions with an undefeated 6-0 record wrestling at 100 pounds. He also led the squad in pins with five. “Michael found his style of wrestling toward the end of last season,” stated fifth-year Head Coach Matt Rosner. “Picking up where he left off, his aggressive approach, stamina and technique were unmatched this season both in the practice room and in competition.”

Wrestling at 126 pounds was James Morello who went 4-1 with all four victories via the pin. He graduates Thompson this spring, and the coaching staff at Middletown High School South is looking forward to Morello joining the roster next year. “JC brought a lot of energy to practice every day,” exclaimed Rosner. “He was 100 percent tuned in with the philosophy of the program and showed it through his actions. He practiced hard and kept those around him engaged!”

James Cook posted a 5-1 record at 110 pounds and scored three pins on the season. He is a three-year middle school wrestler and is also expected to make a mark at MHSS in 2022. “James continued to lead in the practice room and be an example for the team to follow this season,” Rosner said. “His consistency and coachability showed when competing on the mat against more experienced opponents.”

Last year as a sixth-grader, Tyler Alweiss was unable to break into the lineup. Undaunted, he returned for the 2021 campaign and made his as one of the most improved Thompson mat warriors. Anchoring the 105 slot, he went undefeated at 3-0 with every victory gained by ending the match early with a pin. “He worked hard in practice and improved with every match he competed in,” Rosner explained.

Several programs had difficulty filling rosters at the lower weights. As a result, Thompson’s Ryan Romano saw limited action, with just two mat appearances competing at 80 pounds. However, the rookie sixth-grader made the best of the situation, emerging victorious both times by way of the pin. “Ryan is fearless, technical and confident on the mat –always looking to be the hardest worker in the room and always looking to do everything right,” stated the head coach.

Other wrestlers achieving good records were Liam Curley (3-1), Michael Oliveri (3-1) and Dylan Lynch (4-3).

“Throughout the last year, the world has been anything but normal for the kids and their families between school, sports and life,” Rosner said. “The wrestlers and families within the Thompson Wrestling Program had to face unusual day-to-day decisions and follow guidelines which, if not followed, could have negatively affected themselves and many on the team. They stepped up tremendously for each other and as a team in every way, whether it was in the practice room or during competition. I feel the overall challenge of this season was to claim a bit of normalcy back into each other’s lives. We successfully achieved that.”

Under Rosner’s guidance, the Thompson program is now recognized as one of the premier high school wrestling feeder programs of the Shore Conference. The Lions were Division Champions in 2018 and 2020 and captured the Middle School Shore Conference Tournament Championship in 2018. The teams have posted a 38-3 record over the past three years. Partnering with Rosner are Assistant Coaches Eric Cook and Brian Winz.