Matt Gordon will tell you that his James Buchanan wrestling team had a very fine season in 2014-15. You just have to look past the 6-10 dual meet record the Rockets posted.
• Casey Glunt finished third in the PIAA Class AAA Tournament for JB's highest-ever finish at states.
• Cameron DeLucia put together the best freshman season for a Rocket – 29-7 and fifth in District 3-AAA.
• In only his third season in the sport, Kyle Lee produced a 25-9 record.
• Gordon coached his first female wrestler, Elise Eidskrem, who ended up with five wins, only one of which was by forfeit.
"The best thing was, this was a really good group of kids," Gordon said. "We had no big problems this year, and nobody had grade issues. It was a cohesive group that got along well together and I think that helped them wrestle better. Even our rookies did pretty well."
Gordon is the Public Opinion Coach of the Year for the second time, not because of gaudy records, but because the Rockets continue to find some success despite annually low numbers – they had only 12 wrestlers on the team this year.
And a big part of that success is the teamwork of Gordon and his long-time assistant Tim Mongold. The two have known each other for over 30 years and wrestled together at JB. They have figured out how to split up the duties and play to their strengths.
Glunt, who finished his fourth year in the program, said, "Coach Mongold is more into teaching you the techniques and helping you learn moves. Coach Gordon is the one who knows how to get us in shape and keep our heads mentally in the right place. If you get unfocused at times, he can convince you that you can do something."
Gordon said, "With the number of kids we get out, I'm proud of what we've put together. It's always been 'we,' not just me as head coach. Tim and I know each other so well and we can disagree on things and have it work out. We can both run the practices, and even though we do them differently, we get the job done."
"I'm more the hands-on guy who still rolls around with the kids, and Matt is more the overseer," Mongold said. "It took some convincing to get me to be his assistant, but we work well together. It was a great decision because I love being around the kids."
The duo has changed the thinking in the James Buchanan program over the years. Instead of trying to build a team that can win dual meets – which is hard to do when you have to give up some forfeits – the Rockets are focused more on developing the individual wrestlers.
Gordon said, "With our numbers we have to make the best of the situation, so the way we look at it is: Even if we lose all of our duals but do well in the postseason, then that's OK. We're not going to be able to get in tournaments like The Beast of the East, but we'll try to get some good tournaments that can help our kids."
Mongold said, "We decided to start getting into more individual tournaments and get our kids the best competition we can. And it's real satisfying when you can get somebody to states and do well like Casey did this year."
And that philosophy includes workouts as well as competitions.
Chambersburg coach Doug Rine, whose team frequently has JB kids in its practice room or in the Lincoln Highway club facility, said, "JB is not intimidated about letting their kids go to places to get good workout partners and good competition. Some coaches don't like their kids to go to other clubs, but they're not like that – they want their kids to spend quality time on the mat."
Perhaps some of that comes from Gordon's past. He tells a story of when his coach at JB, Ed Snyder, encouraged him before a match to go out and be aggressive. Gordon was trailing by only two points in the last period, but the opponent put in a leg ride and turned him for a pin. He was disgusted with himself until Snyder told him, "Don't be too upset – that was a returning state champion you just wrestled."