Vikes schedule busy weekend to prepare for districts

By: Ken Weingartner
   It might seem like a tournament atmosphere this weekend for the South Brunswick High wrestling team, and that’s exactly the idea.
   Coach Joe Dougherty has picked up a match on Friday against Princeton and a tri-meet on Saturday in an effort to prepare his Vikings for the District 20 Tournament the following weekend.
   The idea is to give SB a match on Friday, and three on Saturday – the same type of schedule Dougherty’s wrestlers could face in the district tourney.
   "We haven’t given up yet," said Dougherty, whose team fell to 3-15 with three dual-meet losses last week. "We got teams that are competitive to face us. We’re not concerned about our record. We’re still trying to prepare kids to wrestle at a high level."
   This is a new technique being employed by Dougherty. In the past, SB was usually in the state team tournament this week, which prevented the coach from getting extra matches over the weekend prior to the district tourney.
   Dougherty said his goal is for the Vikings to "maintain their intensity level for four matches."
   "We don’t want them to wrestle one good match and then not wrestle well again," he said. "I want their last match to be their best match."
   Despite the team’s record, SB could have a strong district tourney. At the recent Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament, Matt Clancy won the title at 215 pounds while Brady Shelcusky was third at 171, Kyle Wadiak (130) and Justin Delpiano (145) were fourth, and Dan White (103) and Derek Shelcusky (189) were fifth. Kelley Lyon (112) placed seventh at the GMCT and Vinnie Biondo (119) has the experience to step up at districts.
   The top three finishers in each weight class at the district tournament advance to the Region 5 Tournament a week later. From there, the top three move onto states.
   Last year, despite a 4-16 record, the Vikings had four district champs – including Brady Shelcusky – and eight regional qualifiers. A repeat performance this season isn’t out of the question. And there are always a few surprises in the tourney, like last year when Lyon entered with an 8-16 record and left as a district runner-up.
   However, Dougherty said the Vikes need to improve their focus if they want to succeed in the upcoming weeks. This weekend’s simulated district setup is just one way to accomplish that goal.
   Dougherty was particularly unhappy with the team’s focus in a nine-point loss to Woodbridge, a team ranked fifth in Middlesex County according to one local poll. South Brunswick split the 14 bouts against the Barrons, but had a 5-2 disadvantage in six-point matches.
   "As I’ve been preaching all year, it’s important for them to stay off their backs," Dougherty said. "That was the difference against Woodbridge. Everyone has their thing to do, whether it’s to win or to not give up bonus points if they lose.
   "They have to be aware of the score, whether it’s plus or minus. When you have an eight-point lead (for a four-point majority decision) you don’t let the kid score on you late in the match. They’re not aware of the score when they’re on the mat. It’s a lack of focus.
   "We’ve done some things to address the focus issue," he continued. "We turned focus into an acronym to try to make them understand what it really means. But them understanding and being able to apply it in a match are two different things."
   The teaching will continue, right through this weekend and into the district tournament.