While he was a captain of the Pearl River High School wrestling team last year, John Muldoon didn’t really feel like a leader until this year.
“Not too many people listen to the 113-pound sophomore,” Muldoon said.
Even those who weren’t listening to him off the mat had to see what he was doing on it. The sophomore led the Pirates throughout the year and finished second at sectionals, something he hasn’t forgotten.
“Sections didn’t go as I planned,” Muldoon said. “I think my mental state is definitely better this year. I think I have more of an edge, more to prove.”
So far in his junior year, Muldoon is making sure to not lose focus on individual matches while working his way back to sections. On Friday, he won the 128-pound weight class at the 33rd Annual Michael O’Connell Wrestling Tournament, hosted by Pearl River. The wins improved his season record to 21-0. At this time last year, Muldoon was 19-2.
He was awarded Most Outstanding Wrestling for the lower weight classes, the second straight year he’s won the honor at the O’Connell Tournament.
But Muldoon isn’t the only Pirate off to an undefeated start this season. Sophomore James Kelly is also 21-0 after winning the 101-pound weight class at Friday’s O’Connell Tournament. It’s the first tournament win for Kelly.
“It feels good,” he said. “I was hoping for a good start to the year, but I didn’t think I’d start 21-0.”
Kelly said he think he’s improved most in the neutral this year, whereas last year he was getting taken down to the mat a lot in that area. Part of the reason for his improvement, Kelly said, is Muldoon, who gave him some tips on what to do in the neutral.
“He showed me a few different setups and things to do,” Kelly said. “He’s the captain and someone we all definitely look to.”
Kelly added that the coaches tell the team to watch Muldoon.
“He leads by example a lot,” said Pearl River Coach Grier Yorks. “John wrestles year-round. He goes to clubs and wrestles against state-caliber talent from all over, and he picks up things and brings them back. I always tell the guys that if you want to learn, learn from more than one person, and John does that. He’s incredibly dedicated to the sport and it shows.”
Muldoon jumped up to 128 for the tournament, but has wrestled at 122 this year and will most likely drop back down in the future. Yorks is happy to have Muldoon toward the beginning of his lineup.
“With James and John going early, they don’t lose so they always get us a nice early lead,” Yorks said.
Yorks has also seen improvements in Kelly in his sophomore year, partly which he attributes to Kelly getting bigger.
“Last year he was small, wrestling in 99 pound division and weighing about 92 or 93,” Yorks said. “He was always going up against guys bigger than him, and that makes it hard to win. This year he went up to 108 and just came down to 101 for the first time this tournament. If he stays at 101, I think he has a chance to be one of the best wrestlers in this weight class in the section.”
It’s not like Kelly had a bad freshman year, either, though. He went 23-10 and made it to sectionals as well, losing in the first round. But even with his success last year, Muldoon has noticed the improvements in his teammate this year as well.
“He was a little light last year, but he bulked up and he’s an animal on his feet and on top now,” Muldoon said of Kelly. “When I watch him, I get jealous of how good he is on his feet and on top.”
Muldoon and Kelly will look to continue to show how good they both are when Pearl River competes at East Ramapo 4:30 p.m. today.