MOUNT VERNON — They weren’t even supposed to be much of a factor at sectionals. By season’s end, they wound up with eight district qualifiers, two alternates, and a pair of state placers.
John Brown, who took the Mount Vernon Yellow Jackets to a highly successful season during what was supposed to be a rebuilding year, has been chosen as the Mount Vernon News 2010 Wrestling Coach of the Year.
Brown knew that the raw talent was there amongst his band of unknowns. It was just a matter of unlocking it.
“We have a team camp every year and I told them, ‘Guys, understand. We will not be on anybody’s radar, but we have talented people,’” said Brown. “I knew, if we worked hard and we believed in what we were doing, at the end of the year we could surprise a lot of folks.”
It was when things looked their worst that it all turned around for the young Jackets.
“The turning point for us was definitely the Olentangy Orange match, where we lost the conference,” said Brown. “We went in with a few starters out. (Jordan) Montgomery wasn’t back yet. Collin Riley wasn’t back. I had to bump the whole lineup up (a weight class) because I didn’t have anybody to fill Collin Riley’s spot. Then, we walked in cold, we didn’t wrestle well and we lost.”
It was time for the Jackets to regroup and decide what kind of season they were going to have.
“We had a big talk after that meet and it turned out that we wrestled better against New Albany,” said Brown. “After that, we never lost. We won every dual after that. We wound up second in sectionals and ninth in the districts. That was the huge turning point right there. We had to dig down deep and decide what we were going to do.”
Even state placers Riley and Dane Cullen needed guidance.
“(Riley) and I talked about his goals early in the year,” said Brown. “He said that he wanted to go to the district. I said, ‘My goals for you are higher because I want to get you to state, but that’s a decision you’ve got to make.’ He was bigger and stronger than most 130s and he was able to compensate for any lack of knowledge he had with his athleticism.”
Cullen wrestled as a heavyweight most of the season until Brown made the final decision to move him to 215 near the end of the season. That was a decision, which proved to be wise as the state tournament unfolded.
Other things were falling in place for Brown toward the end of the season, as well.
“Getting Jordan Montgomery back was a huge plus for us,” said Brown. “He made my life very easy. Normally, you get a kid who blows his knee and has knee surgery, you don’t see him again until the next year. (Montgomery) kept coming to practice every day, assuming he wasn’t going to wrestle. We didn’t find out until January that he even had a hope to wrestle. He came to practice for two months assuming that he wasn’t going to wrestle. That kind of dedication paid off.”
It all just snowballed from there.
“As we won, we just gained confidence,” said Brown. “We started wrestling better. Once we got rolling, I saw guys like Nick Yashnik gain confidence and that was fun to watch.”
The best news of all, for Brown, is that he only loses Cullen to graduation.
“We can pick up where we left off and continue at the same rate,” said Brown. “We’ve got some talented kids and some hard workers. It depends on how hard we work this summer. If we do, we will be on people’s radars.”