Head coach Jason Dersch said the members of the Northwestern “Mat Cats” youth wrestling team learn a lot of discipline. All 58 of them.
Including eight girls.
“We have one of the biggest novice programs in West County,” Dersch said. “Our youth program rivals McLane’s and Fort LeBoeuf’s, and some of the other big wrestling schools around.”
Ten Mat Cats, which include Northwestern and Springfield Elementary School and Northwestern Middle School students in kindergarten through sixth grade, will compete at 5:30 p.m. this Wednesday, Dec. 23, in a districtwide match versus Cambridge Springs in the Northwestern High School gym, 100 Harthan Way, Albion.
Middle school and high school matches will follow at 6 p.m.
One match will be between third year mat cat veteran Courtney Eddy, who placed second at Pennsylvania Girls States last year in Harrisburg. She was a first-grader then, and she lost to a third-grader.
Courtney’s opponents are not always girls.
“When they’re not at all girls’ tournaments, they compete against boys,” Courtney’s mom Sara Eddy said. “I think it teaches them that they can do anything.”
Like many in the Northwestern wrestling program, Courtney’s siblings join her on the mat. Her older brother Garrett is a fifth year Mat Cat, and younger sister Keeley, a kindergartner, is in her first year on the team.
Longtime Northwestern Varsity Wrestling Head Coach Greg Evans said when he goes to other schools, people tell him ‘man, your little kids program is getting to be one of the best around.’
Dersch, a former Northwestern wrestler himself (Class of 2003), has been head coach for nine years.
“This is what we’ve been waiting for, for years, is someone who can stay with it for a long time,” Evans said. “Jason has done a great job.”
And hard work is paying off for the Mat Cats.
Sixth grader Alex Cottrell went to states the last two years. Northwestern’s Johnny Wheeler, who is having a very successful start to his freshman season, was a mat cat from kindergarten through sixth grade
Northwestern will host its first ever youth wrestling novice tournament at 9 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 10, at Corder gymnasium. About 200 youth wrestlers from across the region will compete at the event.
Check out pics of some of the Mat Cats in action here: