Small group keeps Middletown program alive

MIDDLETOWN — Fisher Everin, Max Connell and Logan Geas are doing their best to keep Middletown High School’s wrestling schedule relevant.

All three grapplers – the only members of the squad – fared well in the Division II/III sectional encounter last Saturday at Coventry High School.

Everin spent most of the day watching on a dominant run to the 106-pound championship. The lone Middletown senior pinned his four opponents in 18, 58, 27 and 71 seconds, respectively. Everin therefore only spent 2 minutes and 54 seconds on the mat.

Middletown junior Connell was third in the 113-pound group, and second Geas was fifth in the 145-pound group as all three qualified for the state meet this weekend .

“We had a great tournament,” said Middletown coach Jason Rushton. “(We had) a champion, a third and a fifth. We placed 14th as a team out of 25 with our three guys.

Everin is nationally ranked and has reached a milestone this season

Everin is ranked fourth nationally in the 106-pound weight class after winning the 2021 USA Wrestling Folkstyle Nationals last summer.

He’s lost three fights this season, but they all came when he wrestled in the 113-pound class or the 120-pound class. Despite a recalcitrant knee, Everin is a perfect 10-0 in the 106 weight class this season.

Previously: Supporters seek to fund Middletown wrestling program after it was cut from school budget

“Honestly, I have no idea what I did to my knee,” he said before a recent workout. “It started to hurt in December. I had to sit down some practice for this. And recently the nurse said there was a chance that I could hurt him more by continuing to struggle.

“But I can’t stop. Because if I get a doctor’s note saying I can’t wrestle, then the season is over for me.

Everin joined an elite group of Middletown wrestlers this season when he scored his 100th career win. It happened on a special night as the Gaudet Middle School Gymnasium was officially renamed the Barry W. Clark Gymnasium in honor of the former coach and founder of Middletown High’s wrestling program.

That evening, which fell on Senior Night for Everin, saw more fans in the stands than almost all other home matches combined.

“It made me want to win more, because when you look out into the crowd and you don’t see a lot of people, it’s like you’re winning just for yourself,” Everin said. “But when you see all these people, you don’t want to disappoint them, especially when you know they’re all ex-wrestlers.

“One hundred wins, that was really cool for me because I know I’m representing my school, even though (the wrestling program is) privately funded. It wasn’t as much of an accomplishment as finishing fourth in the country, but it felt good because I had a crowd.

“It’s like no one in the high school world cares about fourth place in the country, because if it doesn’t (Rhode Island Interscholastic League), it doesn’t matter. Even if it matters a lot more. »

List size has shrunk thanks, in part, to COVID

Connell is 14-3 in 113-pound games this season and Geas is 10-4 in the 145-pound class, and each has a shot at a top-six finish when they meet. State. But they are the only other wrestlers on the team besides Everin.

The coronavirus forced Middletown to cancel the wrestling season a year ago.

“My freshman year we had a full squad but we lost a lot of guys because they were seniors,” Connell said. “With the COVID takeover last year, we weren’t able to bring in new people. This year a few people were interested, but the people who were somewhat interested all argued mainly because of COVID .”

Rushton, who took over as coach in the 2018-19 season, agreed with Connell’s assessment.

“We started building and we had 14 kids in 11 weight classes my freshman year,” Rushton said. “Ryan Kerr placed third in the United States. We were going in the right direction. We had three over-25 game winners that year. We were really picking up speed. Then we lost the season last year due to COVID.

Continued: Middletown wrestling founder Clark dies after battle with cancer

“It definitely hurt. Once you have that momentum and the kids see it, you look at the last year that we had and the kids haven’t seen the struggle. So when you get to this year, It’s tough, we started with five and finished with three, so it’s always a challenge.

There are pros and cons to having a small wrestling team.

“You watch three kids and sometimes you get frustrated with that,” Rushton said. “You know we’re not going to go out and win the game. But individually it gave us a lot more time to focus on each child. So if you look at it we’ve made big improvements since the start of year for everyone.

At some point, Everin, Connell and Geas must get tired of facing the same opponents in practice.

“It’s a weird dynamic because you don’t see as many looks as you normally would,” Connell said. “I would say with such a small group it allows us to grow more as an athlete. We spend more time on ourselves. That’s a lot of one-on-one time.

What if there were more teammates?

“The thing about having a lot of guys in the room is that the work ethic is higher. It’s a better environment,” Everin said.

Recruits will be needed to maintain the program

All three wrestlers are having good competitive seasons, although they haven’t been able to wrestle as much as previous teams. Three tournaments in which the Islanders regularly participate have been canceled.

“We usually have a lot more games. We’re just doing our best and we’ll see how it all turns out,” Rushton said.

The Islanders will have two returning wrestlers next season, so Connell and Geas will have to recruit.

“Our plan is that when the season is over, we’re going to start trying to run college clinics,” Connell said. “Try to get eighth graders entering their first year interested and introduced to the sport.

“I think for a lot of people the reason they don’t try the sport is because they don’t really understand it. I think we can build the program.

“At the end of the day, you’ll always find people who are interested, whether it’s football players or people who have no idea. If you’re able to plant that seed and get them to try it, who knows what could happen.

If Everin wins or finishes second in the state tournament this weekend, he will join an elite class of Middletown High wrestlers who have achieved similar status. His name would be added to the banner hanging on the wall of the Barry W. Clark Gymnasium signifying accomplishment.

“All these names, I’ve known so many for so long,” Everin said. “I want to be with them because I feel like I’ve done a lot for this program and the program has done a lot for me. I kind of need to get up there just because I have to show that I’m big here. I have to show everything I’ve done.

“I think if I’m able to gain weight and overcome my bad knee, my chances of winning states and getting on the banner are astronomically high. I know it’s not going to be easy.

“And I really hope that (the program) will generate more interest because I don’t want to be the last group. Especially knowing that the last group consisted of three children. I wish there were more names behind me.

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