With decrease in participation at high school level, Rangers seek ways to keep once-proud tradition alive
Wallkill Valley Athletic Director Daryl Jones knows what the Wallkill Valley wrestling program was in its peak.
To get it back to that level, he is trying to enlist some assistance. Jones is in the process of trying to find another school to be a co-op to partner along with the Rangers in wrestling.
That would need to be approved by the board of education, the NJSIAA and NJAC Conference. In swimming, lacrosse and ice hockey, Wallkill Valley has joined forces with High Point. That wouldn’t be the case with wrestling since High Point is already one of the premier programs in the state.
“We know our numbers have been struggling, so we’ve been looking into a co-op,” Jones said. “They changed some of the rules, so we’re hoping to work with the state and have a co-op developed. I can’t really say it is because we have to go through multiple layers to get approved. We’re in the process of that.
“We’ll hope that will help us out and get us back on our feet. We’re hoping in a couple of months that will be all situated and could help us out.”
The Wallkill Valley wrestling team wrestled mostly with just four kids this season. The program has struggled getting kids to wrestle from sixth through eighth grade, which has hurt the numbers on the high school level.
With club wrestling taking over, it’s a tougher sport to be able to be successful now just learning in high school.
“We went through some very good stretches over the years, both as individuals and as a team,” Jones said. “We have sectional titles and wrestlers place in the top five in the state throughout the years, so I don’t know the exact reasons why. Our numbers in basketball have seemed to jump through the roof as wrestling has gone down. I don’t know if that has a direct correlation.
“Wrestling like other sports has moved to year-round competitors. I don’t know if that’s dropping some of our numbers because kids don’t want to be involved year-round. That could play into it, but the specialization of sports is kind of hitting you in various sports anyways.
“You’re seeing less of the multi-sport kids, and when you’re a Group 1 school that hurts you. Some of the bigger schools can handle that blow, but for us it’s hard when specialization takes over. We need those kids that are playing two or three sports.”
On Sunday, the program received a jolt when senior Samantha Larsen won the North Region title at 114 pounds with a 7-3 win over Katrina King of Warren Hills. After missing the season with an injury last season during the first year of girls wrestling, Larsen will get a chance to wrestle for a state championship in Atlantic City.
Erik Ross finished the season with a record over .500, while wrestlers like Devin Watson and Derrick Rotger continued to improve after coming in with no experience.
“They’ve done a great job,” Jones said. “You got to give the kids credit going out there knowing that you only have four or five kids and you’re going to be giving up forfeits. The coaches are keeping them motivated and some of our kids have stepped up. They’ve all done a great job with the situation. They have all improved, and that’s all you can ask for.
“We’re just looking for a lot of different ways to grow the sport within our community. We’re hoping we can find more ways to get kids out and involved because once they get involved you want them to enjoy it. Our program has a great tradition, so we want to get it back up there.”