Three years removed from winning their third straight sectional title, the Pioneers are eager to make their mark on the mats again this winter with a senior-laden lineup.
Winning is easy. But being a consistent winner, year after year, a perennial favorite to win a championship over the course of a decade or more, that’s a little trickier.
Clearview Regional High School’s wrestling team was a beast to be reckoned with not that long ago. The Pioneers won three straight sectional championships from 2014 to 2016 and also collected the program’s first state championship in 2014, when they captured the Group 3 crown.
In the last two seasons, however, Clearview has been rebuilding under head coach Stephen Duncan. They’ve have some strong individual performers, but, as a team, they’ve finished 12–8 and 10–10, respectively, in 2018 and 2017, and realize they’re capable of more because they’ve done it not that long ago.
This year’s team might have the experience and manpower to lead the Pioneers back to the promised land of district championships, sectional titles, and maybe more, too. Taking the momentum from the fall sports season at Clearview, where the football team fell to Shawnee in the South Jersey Group 4 championship, could also help.
“I think our seniors, most of them, came over from football and we had a really good season,” said Duncan, who is entering his third year as head coach. “But, with a kid like Carmen Giumarello (a 2018 Region champ) and David McCullough (a Region runner-up in 2018), I think they lead by example and I think they’re ready and poised to go. We have good senior leadership and that’s big. I’ve had the chance to see these seniors as freshmen, I’ve had four years around these guys and I’m hoping they’ve learned a little bit from me on leadership and being a man.”
Duncan is a big believer in his job as not only a wrestling coach, but as a molder of men. And don’t misunderstand — not the macho stuff. Duncan, who considers himself more of a football guy than a wrestling guy after playing collegiately at St. Peters in Jersey City, understands the discipline it takes to be a successful high school athlete.
“I wrestled against Paulsboro for years while at Gateway, and they had that mentality that we take what we do seriously,” Duncan said. “They created a culture of that and the coaches treat it like that. It’s just all about seriousness of your craft. (Almost like) someone in martial arts. Someone that reaches a high level there, they are taking it seriously. People that reach a high level in football, they take it seriously.”
As Duncan said, he’s grateful to have a senior-laden team this year that should bring that business-like mentality to the mats this winter. Bryce Ciccarelli, Jack Love, and Dylan Cydis join McCullough and Giumarello to give Clearview a fighting chance in the always-tough Tri-County conference.
But perhaps even more important than winning this year is in establishing a work ethic and a tradition in the room that will carry over to the underclassmen, and then to the underclassmen after them, too.
Giumarello, for example, won a match in Atlantic City last year during the state individual tournament. It was just one win, surely, but it’s the kind of experience that opens the door to future success.
“The faster you get to that tournament I think the more success you have,” Duncan said. “If you don’t get to those tournaments early in your career, it’s tough.”
Similarly, if Clearview can continue to lay the blueprint of a successful program this winter — and make a run at a sectional title, too — it should pay off in producing a winning culture for years to come.
“It’s about a connection, a system,” Duncan said as the middle school worked in a practice on the same mats his high school team would work out on in the same afternoon.
“If everyone is doing it different I don’t think you get anywhere,” he continued. “We haven’t gotten to the point where we have a huge system in place, but we’re at a point where youth (wrestling) is always talking to us, always there. Middle school is reaching out. It takes a while to have a book and develop it and pass it on.
“I have 10 pages in place right now of the system that I want and see progress each year. And I still have 10–12 pages more to write. With me, I’m not a college wrestler, I’m a college football player. So for me, I need a guide. And it’s not just me writing it up, it’s ideas… it’s a starting point and then it keeps going. But it’s about a system. Let’s find the best approach to each situation wrestlers might get in.”