by Andrew Garda

garda@montclairlocal.news

Montclair High School wrestling coach Eugene Kline told his team before the first match of the season that the best way to get people interested in high school wrestling was to win.

So far, so good.

Entering into the MHS gym with AC/DC pumping over the loudspeakers, the Mounties were filled with confidence for their match against Newark Academy on Friday afternoon. They went on to defeat the Minutemen 54-21, moving their record to 2-0 for the season. They kept things perfect Saturday morning when they beat Weequahic, 66-6.

Add in their 43-30 win over Millburn to start the week off on Wednesday and the Mounties are off and running.

That’s not to say things can’t be improved upon. Montclair was lifted by several Newark Academy forfeits, which helped the Mounties overcome some struggles on the mat.

“Where they had experienced kids, we had some new guys,” Kline said after the match.

But he liked what he saw overall.

“I must say the effort is always there,” Kline said. “There’s never a time when I am questioning that they are giving all they have,” including the less experienced guys,

“They want to go there and win, just like the next guy,” Kline said. “So they fight, and it’s a technical and experience thing. Once they get more opportunities to get on the mat, see what it feels like and see what they’re good at, then they’ll start making strides.”

Even when they don’t win, getting that experience is huge, especially when the Mounties are bolstered by forfeits and the pressure isn’t as great. Kline especially liked the effort and improvement he saw in sophomore Jeremy Smullyan as well as freshmen Donovan Walton and Caleb Johnson.

Kline is very high on Johnson.

“He was very competitive in his match and he has been [this season] and he’s a first-year kid,” Kline said. “He’s still learning, especially how moves feel on him, so I’m looking forward to him contributing. He is going to be very competitive for us.”

The high point of the match for the Mounties was junior Terrell White’s pin of Newark Academy’s David Afolabi. White came out hard and moved well, scoring 6 points before pinning his opponent at 4:56.

Overall, Kline was pleased with the toughness and determination of his wrestlers but knows there is a lot more work to do. The veterans can get more sound technique while the younger guys will continue to learn as they get more experience.

Some other boys will be joining the group now that their paperwork and medical issues have been dealt with.

“We have some more guys cleared so we’ll have more competition in the room,” Kline said. “More guys at our disposal who can help us out on match days. Things will get better as time goes on, but we don’t have a lot of returners so it’s a process.”

So far, that process has gone pretty well.