St. John’s Prep senior Corey Jean-Jacques has some unfinished business this week.
In what may or may not be his final year on the mat, the highly successful heavyweight from Haverhill is focused on his second of two season goals.
“I wanted to win the (dual-meet) states as a team and we did that and I wanted to win (individual) states and qualify for New England,” said Jean-Jacques, who admits that football is his sport of choice and what he’ll specialize in college. “I didn’t even place at state last year.”
The odds are heavily in favor of Jean-Jacques winning or at least placing high in his weight class at the Division 1 state meet. He enters with a 46-2 record on the season as well as an impressive 126-29 career mark that would be more inflated if he hadn’t missed much of his sophomore season due to injury.
At just 216 pounds, Jean-Jacques understandably struggled against bigger and more experienced wrestlers as a freshman. But he grew to over 300 pounds after his sophomore year when he missed the football season because of a broken foot and, since losing the weight and getting back in shape, has gotten much stronger.
Now, as a 272-pounder, Jean-Jacques is as strong as anyone and often quicker. His only loss on the season prior to an upset in Saturday’s sectional finals was a 3-1 decision to Mt. Anthony All-American Jesse Webb.
St. John’s Prep coach Manny Costa credits Jean-Jacques’ combination of strength and quickness for his rise to an elite heavyweight, but he has also become a smarter, more technical wrestler thanks to older brother Terrance, who was an unbeaten New England champion at Haverhill High.
Last year, while taking a year off from school, Terrance worked out with Corey almost daily. He then went off to Rutgers on a partial scholarship but, after a disagreement with the coach, he left school and is in the process of transferring (with Iowa and Cornell top possibilities). So he’s back working out with his younger brother.
“It’s a big help to me because we don’t have a lot of big guys and he’s so strong,” said Corey. “I’m getting a little closer to him, but he can still throw me around.”
Following the season, Jean-Jacques has some major decisions to make. A standout defensive tackle on the football team, he’s fielding offers to play football from Merrimack, Sacred Heart, Bryant and Wagner. But he’s also strongly considering prep school, in which case he’d continue his wrestling career another year.
“I’m kind of young (17) for a senior and I think it would help me getting another year of football,” said Jean-Jacques, who lists Phillips Exeter, Phillips Andover and Avon Old Farms as his most likely destination. “I missed out on my sophomore year of football and I didn’t do as well (academically) as I should have my first two years, so that would help.”
Wherever he lands as a football player, Jean-Jacques is happy that he stuck it out as a wrestler.
“I know wrestling has helped me for football,” he said. “It’s helped my quickness and hand fighting on the line.”
Getting it right
It took awhile, but the Mass. State Wrestling Committee made the right call last week when it scheduled the divisional state meets for this week. It was the best solution to what was a crisis situation when the sectional postponements meant that Mass. wrestlers might not be able to attend the New England Tournament March 1-2.
My colleague, Hector Longo, blasted this decision last week, saying that this solution was putting the safety of the athletes at risk by jamming three meets into eight days. He also said that the decision was based on a desire for cash and that the best solution would have been to eliminate the All-State Meet and have two wrestlers go to New England from each divisional meet.
I couldn’t disagree more on both points.
First, wrestlers compete in two tournaments and have a dual meet within eight days almost all year and, by this time of the season, they’re more than prepared for it. Ask any wrestler and he’d say he’d even prefer this schedule over having an extra grueling practice or two. Plus, only the very successful (who are usually the best conditioned) will be wrestling a lot of matches. This is really a non-issue.
Finally, eliminating the All-State Meet would mean that all of the most deserving wrestlers would not be attending New England. There would surely be someone who placed third or even fourth in one of the divisions capable of placing at New England who would be denied. And that wouldn’t be right.
Eventually, it might be a good idea to eliminate the divisional states, allowing more sectional placers to a comprehensive two-day All-State Meet, but this was not the time for that.
I’m not sure why the final solution wasn’t agreed upon sooner, instead of dragging it to the midnight hour, but at least it was the correct solution.
Veteran Winchester coach Larry Tremblay of North Reading showed a lot of class Saturday night at the Division 2 North Sectional at North Andover.
Tremblay, who won his 600th meet during the season and whose squad won both the North Andover Duals of top Division 2 teams and the sectional was honored as the Division 2 North Coach of the Year.
But, after receiving the award, Tremblay handed the award to Whittier coach Harry Takesian and said he deserved it because of the Wildcats’ fine season and told him to keep up the good work. The gesture meant a lot to Takesian, whose team finished 16-7-1 on the year.
“I was honored that a coach as accomplished as he is in his career would do something like that,” said Takesian. “It was a great moment. ... He (Tremblay) is a true sportsman and a class act. I only hope that one day I can be as accomplished as he is.”
Kudos for North Andover
North Andover did the right thing and deserves a lot for stepping up to host the Division 2 North sectional when a new site was needed.
As usual, the tournament was well run and did not drag on like sometimes happens at sectionals. Now, if the Knights would just host the New England Tournament again, we’d all be happy.
WRESTLING FAB 5 The Eagle-Tribune's weekly ranking of area high school wrestling teams: TEAM RECORD 1. Timberlane 23-2 2. Lawrence 21-4 3. North Andover * 21-4 4. North Reading/Lynnfield 25-0 5. Methuen 23-4 Honorable mention: Pinkerton (17-1), Windham (16-1)