MHS wrestling happy to get started

Gaining experience is goal for growing team

By: Bob Nuse
   Kevin Jacoutot grew up as part of a wrestling family in a traditionally strong high school program.
   Now, his goal is to get young athletes from Montgomery into a similar situation.
   Jacoutot is the head coach of the first-year wrestling program at Montgomery High. The team will compete at the junior varsity level this year, with the move to varsity status coming next year.
   "This is more of an introductory year, with a few varsity opportunities mixed in," Jacoutot said. "We have a couple of individuals who, if they do well at the novice tournament, we could put them into the district tournament at the end of the year. The kids will get to wrestle about 20 individual matches, mostly in tournaments.
   "I hooked up with the Somerville coach and we’ll probably do a JV match with them. And I’ve been in contact with schools like Pingry and Robbinsville that have new programs and expressed a similar interest. So hopefully we can schedule some dual meets."
   For a program in its first year, Montgomery already has pretty good numbers. And with a growing recreation program to help bolster those numbers in the future, Jacoutot is optimistic.
   "We have 26 kids in the room right now," he said. "When we had our original meeting, we had 40 kids sign up. But once some of them found out it was going to be a JV sport this year, they went to track. We’re just JV for this one year, then we’re going to varsity next year. We’ll be thrown to the wolves. It will be tough when we first start at the varsity level, especially in this conference. We’re looking to be competitive as soon as we can."
   Jacoutot wrestled in high school at Madison Central, which combined with Cedar Ridge and is now Old Bridge. He then went to the University of North Carolina before finishing at Trenton State College. He’s got plenty of experience in a sport where he will be dealing with quite a few inexperienced wrestlers.
   "It’s always a challenge to start a new program," Jacoutot said. "But I think we’ll get numbers and there will be the interest for us to have a competitive program. We’ll be competing with the big boys. What we have is two-thirds of the room not having any experience whatsoever. But most of the those guys are very enthusiastic. They do what they need to do."
   He’s hoping that in future years, more of the newcomers to the high school level will enter the program with a solid base in the sport.
   "John Moyle started up the rec program and he has 70 kids out right now in grades 1-8," Jacoutot said. "What we need to do now is get a program going at the junior high level and have all three levels going. John started the rec program and has done a great job with it. He’s very easy to work with and he’s the one who really spearheaded the movement to get the program going."
   And those wrestlers, once they get to high school, will give the Cougars a good foundation to work with.
   "I expect to have more kids next year and they will have experience coming into the program from the rec program," Jacoutot said. "That’s the key to the whole thing. You need to have the kids get experience at the younger levels. It takes a couple of years to pick up the fundamentals and become competitive at the varsity level, especially in New Jersey, which is such a good wrestling state. Experience is everything in any sport, particularly a sport like wrestling."
   Jacoutot, who is in his first season as a head coach, feels like he has a lot working in favor. Between the rec program and the support he has received from the school, things are falling into place.
   "We have a fantastic facility," he said. "We’re in the auxiliary gym with two full mats and we have a lot of room to work. It’s a good situation for us. The AD is very supportive of the program and we have a big enough school to be able to support the numbers that we’ll need."
   Montgomery is already off to a decent start on the mat. The Cougars finished third in the JV portion of the Princeton tournament last month. Trevor Thomas won the 130-pound title at the tournament. Thomas also competed in the Somerset County Tournament last week, where he lost to the wrestler who eventually finished third.
   "We were just two points shy of Hunterdon Central for second place," Jacoutot said. "We did well. We had a champion and we got a trophy for finishing third. The kids were pretty excited about the whole thing. This weekend we’re going to the Delaware Valley Invitational."