Leyden Wrestlers Face Former Coach

The 2012-2013 Varisty Wrestling Team.

The varsity wrestling team faces off against Saint Charles East at home this Thursday night at 6:00 pm.

It is one of the most anticipated matchups of the year because the wrestlers will be going up against their former wrestling coach Jason Potter, who was also a gym teacher at East Leyden.

After eight years of teaching and coaching at Leyden, Potter left for Saint Charles East High School where he himself won state two titles in wrestling, in 1998 and 1999.

Along with the meet marking a reunion of the former coach and team, if Leyden beats Saint Charles East, who is ranked as honorable mention, there is a higher chance of Leyden jumping into a ranked spot in state.

This past weekend the Eagles met Crystal Lake South High School who was ranked number 17th in the state. The Eagles beat them 31-30.

After wrestling their best three kids, the Eagles were only down by 9 points and the rest of the team came up big by winning some close matches. The end score was 30-30 but since Leyden won 8 matches during the meet and Crystal Lake South only won 6 that gave Leyden the extra point they needed to upset the number 17th ranked team in the state.

Not only is it a big meet for Leyden to be recognized and ranked, but it’s also a emotional meet for the wrestlers who were coached by Potter and the unique experience of wrestling against a former coach’s team.

While some might say that Leyden should be wary of going up against the former wrestling coach, head coach Mike Fumagalli explained it this way: “It’s a different experience for me: not only have I coached with him, but he also is a close friend. He knows how I coach and I know how he coaches in duals, so I don’t think it gives him an advantage.

He went on to add that “he [Potter] knows our wrestlers, but we have a lot of first year starters and all of of our kids have gotten significantly better from when he left the program,” Fumagalli stated.

The team this year has six first year varsity starters. Two of those new starters placed at one of the toughest tournaments of the year, the Conant Cougar Classic, on November 29 and 30.

Senior and co-captain Javier Rhoades echoed Fumagalli’s sentiments: “Fumo(Fumagalli) is my coach now and we are a happy family. Our team is closer and better this year.”

Rhoades admitted that “of course it’s nerve wracking and this meets adds a little more pressure, but looking over your shoulder and knowing your team is right behind going through the same thing helps so much.” He went on to add how the fans have been really great so far and that’s helped boost the wrestlers’ morale.

“Wrestling at home is such a cool experience. I wouldn’t call it pressure, but it gets you so pumped and ready to wrestle, and I think that gives us an advantage coming into to this meet,” senior and co-captain Todd Cruz.

In any sport if you’re playing at home you’re expected to win because the other team’s in “your house.”

This is a tough test for the Eagles though. Wrestling someone who was a part of our program for a number of years sets the stage for a very emotional meet, yet the team is optimistic.

“On paper I have us beating them by a point. If I didn’t think we had a legit chance of beating them we wouldn’t wrestle them,” Fumagallli said.