GETTING A GRIP: Princeton High wrestler Martin Brophy, right, controls a foe in recent action at 120 pounds. Sophomore Brophy got off to a 3-0 start as PHS went 2-1 last week in its first action of the 2021 season. The Tigers wrestle at Steinert on March 25 and at Hopewell Valley on March 30. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
March 1 wasn’t a holiday, but it felt like one for the Princeton High wrestling team as it got together for the first practice of the 2021 season.
“To tell you the truth, it was like Christmas morning, the level of excitement was there,” said PHS head coach Jess Monzo, reflecting on the mood in the room.
“The kids were happy to be back, wrestling gave them that sense of normalcy. Some of them were still going to their club and working out on their own but being back brought that family unity they were missing.”
There is unity of purpose to go along with that family feeling after a promising 2019-20 campaign that saw the Tigers finish fourth in the Mercer County Tournament with two champions and a runner-up. PHS ended up qualifying three wrestlers for the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) state championships in Atlantic City with James Romaine making the boys’ tourney at 152 pounds and Chloe Ayres finishing first at 107 in the girls’ competition and Ava Rose taking second at 100.
“The kids were coming out of their shell last year and seeing success helped them build off of it,” said Monzo.
“When they came in the room this year, they were a year older, they were a year more mature. They get it, especially my young guys, my freshmen who became sophomores. They see that we can do this, we can hang so the young guys are really stepping up.”
A trio of seniors, Ayres, Romaine, and Chris Sockler, are setting a good example for the program’s younger wrestlers.
“They have been tremendous leaders in the room,” said Monzo. “The young guys pick up on it and follow along so that has been tremendous. Some of them like to lead by talking and being vocal, others lead by setting the pace in the room and working hard. It is really starting to show.” more