John Muldoon began wrestling in first grade, but just started to really get serious about it last year, his freshman year of high school.
“I like it now. Before I used to get my butt kicked a lot,” Muldoon said. “Working hard has paid off.”
Indeed. Muldoon, 15, of Pearl River, went 27-8 as a freshman and started his sophomore season 19-2, giving him the most wins on the team. This includes his performance at the at Pearl River in late December where he took home Most Outstanding Wrestler honors for the lower weights in the 14-team tournament. He also placed second in his weight class in the at New Rochelle High School, the highest finish of any Pirate wrestler.
Muldoon will take to the mats again Saturday in the Rockland County Wrestling Championships at Tappan Zee High School, with the matches starting at 9:30 a.m. and the finals tentatively scheduled for 4:30 p.m.
“He’s been really tough all year,” said Pearl River Coach Grier Yorks. “He’s really improved from last year to this one and taken control.”
Muldoon said he’s been able to use the experience from last year to improve during his sophomore season.
“Last year I was giving up a bit more weight,” he said. “I was satisfied with the season but wanted to get better.”
His goal for this year is to win at the county championship Saturday, then sectionals, which would put him in the running for the state title. Yorks said he thinks Muldoon should be able to get through sectionals this year.
Another area where Muldoon has improved during his sophomore year has been his discipline, which he said is evident on the mat as well as in the classroom.
“Even with school, I’ve gotten more mature in school as well as wrestling,” Muldoon said. “I’ve certainly gotten my grades up. I’m still no ace student, but I’m getting better.”
Muldoon said he decided to get more serious about wrestling last year because he decided to give up football.
“I was always giving up a lot of size in football,” he said.
Part of his getting serious with football was working with Phil and Billy Donnelly, former Pearl River wrestlers. From 1990-1993, Phil Donnelly won his section all four years for the Pirates. Billy Donnelly is a physical education teacher at Franklin Ave. Elementary School, and worked with Yorks as a coach for the varsity team for 13 years, and three years ago moved down to the modified team to help build up the program. He also runs the youth program at Pearl River for grades three through six.
“I first met John when he was in kindergarten. I taught him for five years,” Billy Donelly said. “On a side note, I went to Pearl River High School with his dad, he was a couple of years older than m,e but I lived around the corner from him.”
Still, Donnelly said he tries to get to the high school wrestling room as much as he can to work with the older kids in the program. He mentioned to Muldoon’s father that John should start lifting weights. Muldoon’s father asked Donnelly if he could work with him, which Donnelly agreed to do.
So every morning Donnelly takes Muldoon, as well as Steve Moreno, to the gym before school at 5 a.m.
“I pick them up before five every morning,” Donnelly said. “We have been working on cardio and strength training. The cardio that we do is a 20 minute warm up with sprint intervals on the bike, elliptical with sprints, Jacobs ladder, stair master and sometimes we push the weight sled. When we lift, we concentrate on maintaining strength or increasing strength. Heavy weight with low reps after cardio.”
Muldoon added that it was Billy Donnelly who got him into wrestling back in first grade when he gave him a flyer for the youth wrestling group. Donnelly was Muldoon’s coach when he was on the modified team in eighth grade as well.
Additionally, John works out with Phil Donnelly once a week at New York Athletic Club, as well as Olympic Wrestling Club multiple nights a week when he can.
“My brother and I are committed to giving back to the Pearl River wrestling community,” Billy Donnelly said, adding that Muldoon has improved “tremendously” as a wrestler.
The Pirates are 6-9, but Muldoon has seen reason to think they will have better times in the seasons to follow.
“Every kid on our team works hard in the room. I witness that. No one can take away that,” Muldoon said. “We have a young team. We can’t discouraged. We can definitely shock a couple of people next year.”