Dougherty decides to change his ways

By: Ken Weingartner
   Joe Dougherty knows the cliché about teaching an old dog new tricks.
   But the longtime South Brunswick High wrestling coach is willing to try. Time will tell if he’s barking up the right tree.
   Dougherty was encouraged by the young Vikings’ efforts last weekend, despite losing three of four dual matches to some of Middlesex County’s top-rated teams. As he has preached from Day One, it’s performance, not wins and losses, that matter.
   "I don’t know if I had an epiphany or what," Dougherty said. "I’m training kids to be one of the top-ranked teams in the state, like I’ve always done, but through it all I might have lost sight that I have to get them to enjoy the sport first. These kids don’t see that vision right now because they’re all so young.
   "What I realized is I had to have them love the sport first before I can take them to the next level. If you don’t love the sport first, you’re not going to have intrinsic motivation. I have to go back to basics in terms of motivation and goal setting; I can’t assume intrinsic motivation.
   "We had a little chat and came up with some plans. Old school is going to meet new school, that’s what it’s going to come down to. I’m giving in on some things, they’re giving in on some things, and we’re going to meet somewhere in the middle. I think things are going in the right direction and I’m happy."
   Dougherty pointed to performances by Cody Shelcusky, Colin Preacher, Brent Griffin, Anthony DelPiano and Dave Amrhein as examples of the new Vikings.
   "They didn’t win too many matches, but they wrestled their best," Dougherty said. "They pushed the pace of their matches. I was encouraged by their performances; they turned the corner as far as I was concerned. They didn’t wrestle scared and went after guys. We’re trying to go in there with an attitude.
   "The grit and guts and determination that kids showed was very encouraging. They wrestled with heart and courage in losses. I told them afterward that they wrestled three of the best teams in the county and got blown out on paper, but never had wrestled with such heart, courage and determination. If they continue to do that, that’s all I can ask for."
   Shelcusky, for example, lost a major decision to Edison’s J.C. Franco-Bandiero, who is the favorite to win this weekend’s Greater Middlesex Conference title at 130 pounds. Shelcusky battled throughout the bout, and was able to takedown Bandiero in the third period.
   "That kid was totally frustrated by having to wrestle Cody; he went in there thinking he was going to kick Cody’s butt and Cody gave him everything he could handle," Dougherty said. "It was like the kid was ticked off at Cody because he was wrestling him. I kind of liked that."
   Dougherty echoed similar sentiments about Preacher, who lost a major decision to North Brunswick’s Billy Belfi, the GMC favorite at 112, and Amrhein’s decision loss to Sayreville’s Mike Velardi, the pick to win the GMC crown at 171.
   "It was to the point where other coaches were coming up and asking who that kid (Preacher) was," Dougherty said. "That’s a South Brunswick wrestler."
   The Vikings hope to have a lot of coaches asking questions this weekend in the GMCT, which begins at 6 p.m. tomorrow at South Brunswick. Quarterfinals will be at 10 a.m. Saturday with semis at 12:30. Consolation finals are scheduled for 3:30 and the finals at 6.
   South Brunswick’s seniors – Justin DelPiano, Kyle Wadiak and Derek Shelcusky – along with veteran sophomore Ryan Smith are the Vikings’ top contenders, with Shelcusky the favorite at 215.
   "There are so many young kids on the team and they don’t have a clue what the GMCs are and that kind of environment," Dougherty said. "Realistically, I want our kids to do well and our young kids to get a grasp of what it is; see it and experience it. We hope we learn from the county tournament, for the most part."
   Old dogs, and new dogs, alike.