Kinkead’s Heralds are few, but tough

Kinkead’s Heralds are few, but tough

Dec. 24 – ANDOVER – Mike Kinkead may not have taken on a rich program, but Saint John’s new mat coach is certainly aware of how rich the program is when it comes to recent history.

After seven years as an assistant coach at Madison, Kinkead received the call last spring with an offer to train with Saint John.

“It was Memorial Day weekend,” he said. “I didn’t even know [former coach] Scott [Blank] stopped,” he explained, laughing.

Six months later and two months into his first stint as head coach, Kinkead is quickly learning what it’s like to handle fewer numbers than he was used to at Madison, with not much experience but more than one’s fair share of illnesses and injuries the early part of the mat season.

Still, the new coach is smiling just as much as he did the day he got the call about the takeover.

“So far I’m loving it,” he said between games in last Saturday’s Laker Shaker Duals at Pymatuning Valley High School.

“We’ve been dealing with a minor injury, as soon as we get better and can get through this cold and flu season I’m almost looking forward to this break so we can all get healthy and back on track. But so far it’s been great, I feel like I’ve been here for a couple of years. The people here, the parents, the staff, they’ve been great to me and I’m just starting out, I’m so looking forward to the rest of the season.”

Kinkead is excited about the future and he is well aware of Saint John’s past when under Blank’s stewardship [now at Edgewood]the Heralds were Division III runners-up in 2018 and produced two state champions in Jacob Lagoa and Nick Burgard, who were joined by two runners-up, David Cumberledge and Ethan Ducca, along with a few other state qualifiers.

This year’s Saint John team is packed with youngsters. The Heralds have no seniors and only one junior (Aiden Heath), the rest are freshmen and sophomores.

Gone are Ryan Elrod, who qualified for the state three times last year, along with talented wrestlers like Ian Fuentes, Tyler Cathcart and a few others.

Kinkead knows it wouldn’t be fair to compare the boys in his room to some of the greats of the past, but that doesn’t mean he’s not excited about what lies ahead.

“You can look at our youth as negative, or you can look at them as a great foundation to start with,” Kinkead said. “I’m almost looking forward to the offseason where I can get together with these guys in the weight room and start working with them because they’re all freshmen and sophomores and we could have another conversation in a few years. “

Kinkead has about eight children in the room, which is typical for a school the size of Saint John. But instead of complaining about numbers he doesn’t have, he prefers to talk about who he has.

Joe Pirccririllo (157) was 4-1 at PV last weekend. Newcomer Cody Fuentes, the younger brother of Ian Fuentes, who was playing strong at the end of last season, was out with an injury but he’s someone the coach says looked really good in the room. Sullivan Twining was a standout on the football team. Last year he tried basketball as a winter sport, but this season he decided to try wrestling.

There are many young people with little experience who will try to continue the tradition that Saint John has been able to build up in a short time. Kinkead knows he has big shoes to fill, but he also knows he has the passion and support to succeed.

“I do,” he said as he replaced Blank. “But I also love a good challenge and I think part of the attraction for me is Scott and I have similar aggressive styles. I knew it would be a good fit, I knew I wouldn’t be successful overnight. I have a lot of work to do but I have a great foundation from the youth program onwards.

“Scott and I are very similar, we’re both a bit rough, but we have a passion for the sport that comes from letting the kids know you look after them. If they know you care about them, you’ll get more out of them.”

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