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Mat Cats Seek To Build off Last Season

By Joe Mertens '15, 12/03/21, 2:30PM EST


After a program record 18 Dual Match wins a season ago, the Cats are primed to get back on the Mats to dominate the competition.

OHIO CITY, Oh - Saint Ignatius Wrestling is back for a new season as they are coming off a memorable 2020-21 season. A season where they broke a program record in Dual Meets won with 18. Head Wrestling Coach Mark Sullivan enters his final season as the head coach at Saint Ignatius as he will be retiring at the end of the season after a phenomenal career leading the Blue and Gold Mat Cats. The season will begin on Friday, December 3, at the Solon Comet Classic and the Cats are eager to see all their off-season training pay off.
“Last year was a year of perseverance, with the pandemic, we had a lot of guys out at different times of the year, but were diligent of the protocols and we were able to wrestle a lot of matches,” explains Sullivan. “It was nice to have a full season and a record-setting year which was pretty cool.”

Senior Timmy Putka is thrilled to be back healthy with the team. Last season Putka missed his junior year due to injury but is back in shape for his senior year to lead the Cats out on the Mats. Putka weighs in at 144 lbs and is a team captain this season. “I feel awesome; this is the best I have felt in my entire life, my knees are fresh and I’m ready to go,” says Putka. “I wanted to get my strength back. When I was injured, I had to take six months off from lifting; that was a big focus point for me and getting back into shape. Wrestling is one of the hardest sports there is and you have to be in shape for it.”

Heading into this season, the Wrestling Cats have great upperclassmen leadership that coach Sullivan hopes translates into a memorable season. The other team captains include seniors Joey Novak and Sam Infante and junior Jarell Young. “We’re expecting a lot this season. We have a lot to prove this season,” explains Novak.  “We want to show that we can do it again.”

“Coach [Jon] Polick ‘03 and I noticed that they are all focused; there is less goofing around,” says Sullivan. “There are times where you need to let them have their fun, so they are not burned out quickly, but this is a focused group and I am proud of their work ethic.”

Work ethic was the goal of the Mat Cats over the off-season as each wrestler has put in the time to better themselves on the mat. “We have improved a lot; our work ethic is through the roof,” explains Young. “We have been working every day, even on days we don’t want to come in to make ourselves better.”

Wrestling Season Preview

Young returns after a thrilling sophomore season which saw him qualify for the State Tournament in Columbus last season. Young is hoping to get even better as he enters his junior season and better understands the sport. “My mentality of being around kids that are better than me and realizing its okay to say that and have a goal to work towards,” says Young. “It gave me a perspective of what I should work on.”

“We’re going to have an exciting year,” says Sullivan. “We have seniors that are off the radar because of injuries last season and didn’t wrestle. I think by mid-season, we’ll have guys ranked in the state.”

The Wildcats will head into their first high school regular-season tournament of the season at the Solon Comet Classic, an event that showcases some of the best wrestlers in the state. “I’m excited because this is the first tournament we have had since my sophomore year,” explains Infante. “We can’t wait to get back to tournament play like it was before the pandemic.”

“This is great and I am excited for the Solon Tournament,” Sullivan says. “There are a lot of good teams there, so if you do well at the Solon Tournament, you’ll be recognized in the State and ranked if you place, so this is a coming-out party of the hard work these guys put in during the offseason.”

When asked about goals for the upcoming season, Young was quick to respond by saying, “Be better than last year.” Confidence echoes the building of Gibbons Hall as the Mat Cats prepare for what should be an exciting season. Although it is coach Sullivan’s final season as head coach, the mentality remains the same for this season; eye the State Tournament. “We started this year talking about the State Tournament,” Sullivan says. “Eye the State Tournament, peak for the State tournament, work toward the State Tournament, progress every day.”