RADNOR >> As the only two returning wrestlers from a team that only had five names listed on its roster a year ago, senior Nick Poulos and junior Jack McQuaid felt it was their duty to convince some of their classmates to come out if Archbishop Carroll was going to have a team this season.
And so, Poulos and McQuaid went out and scoured the halls for a little in-house recruiting.
“I just went around to kids who I knew had wrestled before and asked them if they wanted to come out,” Poulos said. “I figured that even if they weren’t that good we still needed numbers to build the program back up.”
“We were dedicated to wrestling and dedicated to building the program back up,” McQuaid said.
Their sales pitch worked. The duo convinced 11 of their fellow students to come out for the team and six of those recruits wound up wrestling in double-digit matches for the Patriots. Nine will take part in the Catholic League championships Saturday at St. Joseph’s Prep, including Poulos and McQuaid, both of whom are going for their second league title.
Poulos is 24-0 and seeded No. 1 at 132. He won the 126-pound title two years ago as a sophomore. McQuaid is 24-2 and No. 1 at 160 and captured the 170-pound title last year.
“I’m so happy for them because they’re the two guys who kept the program alive for the last two or three years,” first-year coach Charles Alexander said. “I think Carroll wrestling would have died if those two didn’t make it an issue. Everyone except them is new to our team and they were the ones who went around and convinced those other guys to come out.”
The funny thing is, as he roamed the halls trying to convince people to come out for the team, Poulos has pretty much decided that his career as a wrestler was over.
After making the PIAA championships as a sophomore, Poulos only wrestled three matches last season because of a right shoulder that he injured twice in the span of seven months. He tore the labrum while wrestling in an AAU tournament in June of 2016. The injury required surgery and kept him out until December. He reinjured the shoulder in the third match of his junior season. Although the second injury did not require surgery it did shut him down and made Poulos a little hesitant to wrestle as a senior.
“I wasn’t sure my shoulder was going to feel good because I wrestled over the summer and it was still bothering me,” Poulos said.
And so he decided to hang up his singlet, but not his involvement in the sport. He asked Alexander if he could stay on as a student coach. Alexander, of course, agreed. Alexander knew that having a wrestler who qualified for the PIAA championships as a sophomore as a volunteer assistant could not hurt.
Besides, Alexander knew deep down that once Poulos got involved as a coach, the itch to compete would return.
Sure enough, Alexander was right. Poulos just needed a little convincing. McQuiad and junior Chris Caponi had a lot to do with that. McQuaid and Caponi gave Poulos a ride home one night and tag-teamed their teammate.
“Right before we got home we were talking about why I wasn’t wrestling,” Poulos said. “Listening to them kind of convinced me to come back.”
Yet it wasn’t until the opening week of the season that Poulos decided it was time to get back to competitive wrestling.
“He came up to me and said, ‘Maybe you should put me in for the Upper Merion tournament this weekend,’ so I put him in,” Alexander said, referring to the Viking Invitational. “Then, the Friday night before the tournament, he calls me and said, ‘Coach, I am going to wrestle this year, but I’m just not ready for this weekend yet.’
“He shows up the next morning for the weigh-in and just so happens to have his singlet, headgear and shoes with him. He also sees that he’s seeded third and says, ‘Maybe I should wrestle this weekend.’”
Poulos did have his wrestling bag with him, which included his shoes and headgear, but not his singlet.
“My dad had to bring that to me,” Poulos said.
Poulos won three times that weekend to take the 132-pound title and hasn’t lost since. And with 94 career victories, he’s on the cusp of joining the 100-win club.
“It would mean a lot because I would have done it in basically three years,” Poulos said.
That would not be possible if Poulos stayed retired.
“I’m glad I came back,” Poulos said.
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