Family ties suit DeSales just fine
Nine athletes and coaches in the DeSales High School wrestling program are related to at least one other person on the team, making it likely that families will tangle in some manner during a practice.
Coach Nick Preston isn't sure if his wrestlers care who they practice drills against, but the Cua brothers, senior Reno and sophomore Conner, aren't so quick to agree.
"Definitely over the few years he's been here, we've had our share of practices together where we just drill and go at it and make each other better," said Reno, who competes at 138 pounds and took up wrestling as a sophomore, followed by his brother who was in eighth grade at the time. "It's quite a sibling rivalry. It's definitely happened."
Have they ever had to be separated in practice?
"Oh yeah," Reno said. "It's happened a few times."
Have they ever forgotten who they're going against?
"I always feel like I'm going up against him," said Conner, who competes at 120. "He goes harder on me than anyone else in the room."
Reno, chuckling, added, "I know when it's my brother."
The Cua brothers aren't the first Stallions to say that, and, if trends hold, they will be far from the last. This year's team features brothers Jake and Jeff Maynard, a freshman and senior who wrestle at 126 and 152, respectively; cousins Daniel Mulligan (sophomore, 132/138), Jake Mulligan (junior, 126) and Nick Myers (freshman, 132/138); and the father-son tandem of assistant coach Nick Slupski and freshman Gabe Slupski (120).
The Cuas had four uncles who wrestled and they said their father would have wrestled at St. Charles if the school had a wrestling program when he attended.
Preston, a 1998 DeSales graduate who wrestled at Ohio State and is in his first season coaching the Stallions, himself is a legacy in the program. His father, John, a 1970 DeSales graduate, wrestled for the Stallions, as did older brothers John III (1989 graduate) and Scott (1993 graduate). Scott serves as an assistant coach.
"For someone new, having someone familiar around can really help the learning curve," Nick Preston said. "Even if a family has been in the program for years, they're doing their part to start a new tradition."
The Mulligans and Myers also have a pedigree, as their cousin, Matt McGovern, placed fifth in Division II at 119 as a sophomore in 2005 and third at 140 as a senior. Even so, Jake Mulligan and Myers weren't certain they'd wrestle until last summer, when Daniel convinced them to come out for the team. Jake had not wrestled seriously, and Myers had taken some time away from the sport after participating since he was in second grade.
"My dad was always nudging me in that direction. I did it when I was like 5, but it just seemed like a little bit too much for a 5-year-old," Jake said. "It's very beneficial physically. It keeps you in shape and it's teaching me some discipline. I've made a lot of new friends. I like it."
Daniel and Myers agreed the sport has provided social benefits.
"Coming in, I didn't have another guy on the team I really hung out with, so when I started this year and got those two to wrestle, it was a lot more fun. It made practices easier," Daniel said. "They're not afraid to tell me what I am doing wrong. They know it helps me, and not in a mean way."
Nick Slupski, a 1987 DeSales graduate and an assistant coach with the Stallions on and off since 1995, had been away from the program the past few years but jumped at the chance to return and coach his son -- with a caveat.
"I don't want to be the dad who over-coaches his son," Nick said. "I definitely have some trepidation about that. But Dan Garrick, the principal, asked me to help and (Preston) asked me, so I was happy to do it."
Jake Maynard, a freshman whose brother and uncle wrestled, rarely goes against his brother because of their disparity in weight, but they're each other's biggest fan when they're able to be spectators.
"We push each other," Jake said. "Having (Jeff) around helps because it makes me want to go harder and be better than him. It definitely makes you work harder."