Golden Mission: Boyertown’s Wood named 2014-2015 Mercury All-Area Wrestler of the Year

Imagine what he could have achieved in a full season of wrestling.

All the same, Jordan Wood accomplished more in his injury-abbreviated 2014-15 campaign than many wrestlers were able to do over the entire 3-1/4 month span. Another championship-filled run through the postseason, a third state-level medal … and The Mercury’s All-Area Wrestler of the Year honors for the third time in his scholastic career.

“I think my shape would have been a little bit better,’ Wood said in pondering that scenario. “I wouldn’t have been sitting around on the couch eating food for four months before I started doing anything.

“But the mental aspect would have been the same. The drive was still there the whole time.’

A wrestling-related injury to his left shoulder, resulting in surgery near the end of September and a four-month recovery period, kept Wood on the bench area until the last weekend in January. By that time, many area competitors — some of them his own teammates — had already logged 30 or more bouts en route to final records that would easily top the 50-match mark.

But Wood packed a season’s worth of achievement into the 37 days of action he got:

* A 20-0 record with 13 pins and two major decisions to his credit.

* Winning his third straight Pioneer Athletic Conference and District 1-AAA West championships, and a second Southeast AAA Regional title in three years.

* Topping the 100-win mark in his district medal bout, becoming the 24th wrestler in program history — and the third this past season — to achieve that feat.

All that was capped, of course, by the 220-pound gold medal he won at the PIAA Class AAA Tournament in March. A 4-0 victory over South Western’s Seth Janney elevated Wood to the highest step on the medal stand at Hershey’s Giant Center after two previous silver-medal showings.

That made him the Boyertown program’s first state mat champ since Mike Spaid won the 285-pound title in 2004.

“The monkey’s off my back,’ Wood said after accepting the top prize in the 220-pound bracket. “It’s nice to win one (first place), not two.

“This is definitely fun. I’m loving every second of it.’

A solid build and hefty skill set have made Wood a physically formidable grappler … not just in Pennsylvania, but both nationally and internationally.

Between the current and previous high-school seasons, Jordan won medals at the ASICS University and FILA Cadet Nationals last May, then at the FILA Cadet World Championships in July. His combined haul: Gold and silver, respectively, in the national 85-100 KG Freestyle and Greco-Roman competition, silver in the international 100 KG freestyle.

Lesser advertised, though, is the cerebral aspects of Wood’s involvement in the sport. It’s a natural fit for the Boyertown mat program’s selection to the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s Academic All-Conference Team for the 2014-15 winter season.

“With wrestling,’ he said, “it’s all about the mental approach and how you can trust yourself when you’re training for wrestling. So before the matches, during the matches, I just have to keep reminding myself that I did all the right things to get to the point that I’m at in my career.

“Being able to have success is not winning that match, actually, but it’s about everything you did leading up to that match. It’s the payoff, that’s all the hard work you put in, all the extra hours in the room. You just have to believe in yourself, that you did all the right things to get where you want to be.’

In line with that was Jordan’s determination to make it back out on the mats this past winter. Through the extended rehabilitation period, the missed matches in December and January and the constant questions from classmates and fans about his medical status, Wood persevered.

“The injury was a real big gut check,’ he said. “The doctors told me that I wasn’t going to be able to come back, that I was going to be out the whole season and that I was done.’

His perseverance was rewarded eight weeks into the season. Wood joined his teammates for the second phase of the District 1-AAA Duals Tournament, scoring a pin and major decision in three wins to help the Bears repeat as champions.

“Having the drive to keep going, keep pushing for a goal of being back by postseason … and I made it back even earlier than we hoped I’d be back,’ he said. “So that was really just a good experience, and a good mental toughness builder all together.’

Head coach Pete Ventresca, for his part, never doubted Wood’s ability to deal with the situation.

“It took time for Jordan to get healthy,’ he said. “But he’s a hard worker, both in school and in his rehab. No surprise there.’

Wood’s perseverance was further forged in the goal of being a Pennsylvania gold medalist. Two of his four career high school losses came on the state’s biggest stage the last two years, and a three-peat of that nature was not going to be acceptable in his mind.

“Hearing that my season could be over, before it even started, made it even more challenging to accept that it was going to be over because my freshman and sophomore season ended in a loss,’ he said. “I wanted to end this year with a win and a state championship. I didn’t want that possibility of that opportunity to be completely gone before it could even start.’

His rehab period may have kept Jordan off the mats in the early going, but it didn’t prevent him from being part of Boyertown’s success. The three-year team captain constantly offered advice and encouragement to his teammates, who went 21-2 in the regular season — 9-0 in the PAC-10 — while repeating as District 1-AAA West and Southeast AAA Regional team champions.

“The team had so much success this year,’ Wood noted. “In the first three quarters, almost the whole time, I was just watching and cheering from the side. It was awesome all the things that they did. But I wanted to be out there and be an active part in it, not just be a cheerleader for it.

“Knowing that the date was coming and I was going to be back, that just made me hungrier to get out there and help the team.’

The list of opponents Wood faced during his gold-medal run featured some top-flight talents.

Jordan’s first action, in the district duals’ semifinal round, was a major decision of Pennridge’s Ezra Outlaw, who ultimately finished seventh at states. Facing unbeaten (25-0) Josh Yeboah-Gyasi in both the district and regional finals, Wood dealt the Upper Darby senior his only two losses of the season.

And in the state semifinals, Wood edged Parkland senior Omar Haddad (40-8) in a 3-2 decision. They had previously wrestled in the third consolation round of the 2014 PIAA Class AAA Duals, Wood scoring a 3-1 decision while Boyertown was eliminated from the tournament in a 33-21 loss.

The rematch with Haddad came exactly four weeks after this year’s state duals, when the Bears and Parkland were again paired in the third round of consolations.

Wood and Haddad were in position to face off in the match’s finale with Parkland holding a 30-26 lead, but the Boyertown coaching staff decided to hold Wood out of the match. The forfeit resulted in a 36-26 Parkland victory, and the Bears being eliminated with their second loss.

“At the time it was tough,’ Ventresca said. “But sometimes, you have to save a kid from himself. Jordan wanted to wrestle badly, but I didn’t want him to go out there and force something and get hurt and go backwards.

“The decision was focused on, in one month you’ll be back here (in Hershey for the individual PIAA tournament). You’ll probably get to see him (Haddad) again and you can get your state title. And it happened.’

Looking back, Wood concurred with his coach’s decision — one driven by the fact he was back only a week from his rehab period.

“It was probably the right choice. They were looking out for my safety,’ he said. “I may not have been 100 percent ready, so from a coaching point of view, that was the right thing to do.

“I still wish I could have wrestled it, though. I still wish they would have sent me. But if I would have gotten hurt, I would have regretted it.’

His championship-clinching shutout of Janney (41-3), a sophomore who came to states as the Southcentral AAA Regional champ, was the climax to a dominating postseason run. Wood pinned nine of the 13 tournament opponents he faced, scoring falls on everyone in the PAC-10 and District 1-AAA West tourneys.

“I wasn’t in the same shape as I was last year, and not as trained,’ he recalled, “but I was a lot hungrier. I missed the whole season, and I was itching to come back. And I came back hard.’

As such, it was no real surprise to hear Wood, soon after finishing his gold-medal chase, outline his plans for his latest high school off-season.

“I’m going take off a week,’ he said, “then go back to work.’

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