Wrestling: Coaching reversal working well for Thomas Worthington Cardinals

Stephen Borgna
ThisWeek group
Thomas assistant wrestling coach Brad Todd (left) and head coach Ross Sandridge have a history of working well together. Todd was Sandridge's coach at Johnstown, and Sandridge was an assistant under Todd with the Cardinals before the pair reversed roles this season.

Long before Ross Sandridge was the head coach of the Thomas Worthington wrestling team, he wrestled at Johnstown with Brad Todd as his coach. 

The pair teamed again with the Cardinals as Sandridge, a 2009 Johnstown graduate, was an assistant under Todd for five seasons. 

This year, they reversed roles with Sandridge taking over as head coach and Todd staying on as an assistant.

Todd has helped Sandridge settle into his new role, and the Cardinals have responded as well, posting a 14-8 record heading into a quad Feb. 6 with host Mount Vernon, Delaware and Westerville Central. Thomas also is 1-2 in the OCC-Cardinal Division. 

“It’s been great,” Sandridge said of having Todd on the staff. “He’s someone I can definitely lean on from the administration aspect of wrestling and being a head coach for the first time. I lean on him if I have questions here or there on how I should handle certain situations as well as just being there for me as far as input goes during practices and those kinds of things.”

“He’s been really on top of things,” Todd said. “He’s been great with the kids, running practice, been a good communicator with the parents and the wrestlers and keeping that unity together, which is much needed, and that family atmosphere as we’ve always tried to do.” 

Todd stepped down as head coach to spend more time with his family. He had planned his exit for a few seasons and sought to prepare Sandridge to take over. 

“I had let him know ahead of time, ‘Hey, I want you to take over this role if you want it.’ And he said that’s something he wanted to do,” Todd said. “So for the past year or two we’ve kind of been grooming him to take over that role and take more responsibility and step up and do what he’s doing now.” 

Nothing has changed much for the Cardinals, Sandridge said, as they’ve sought to maintain the same culture, principles and routine of years past. 

“Definitely the last few years, I’ve kind of taken on more of a responsibility as far as being the assistant coach goes,” Sandridge said. “We’ve kind of kept that input and let the kids know what the changes were going to be the year prior, and just kind of let them know as far as change goes that nothing’s going to be different.

“Everything’s going to be the same as far as practices go. We’re just trying to make sure the team is together and committed.” 

Senior Majed Ahmad, a 160-pounder who was 16-5 entering the Feb. 6 quad, said one of the things he’s taken from Sandridge’s coaching is him encouraging the Cardinals to have fun while they’re competing.

“Ross is really big on just going on the mat and trying to have fun,” Ahmad said. “He does not care if we win or lose.

“I feel a lot more relaxed on the mat, and it’s made my wrestling so much better.” 

In addition to Ahmad, several Cardinals have been performing well, including Channing Thornton (120, 19-3), Michael Blain (132, 20-4), Jaden Fields (170, 18-6) and Mason Gates (195, 15-2). 

Todd said he knew from his time coaching Sandridge and from coaching alongside him that he was the right candidate to lead the program. 

“He was somebody that was a team-first guy,” Todd said of Sandridge’s time at Johnstown. “Anything we asked of him he was willing to do. He always put his team first. And he was just a natural leader, always hard-working, and a very talented wrestler that always wanted to do more to make himself better and was there for his teammates whenever they needed him.” 

Sandridge said he has learned from Todd to take the season day by day and not try to force too much on the athletes at once. 

“You just try to make sure as far as practices go and those kinds of things that you kind of balance out your schedule to utilize that time at the beginning of the season to teach and learn and go that route ... so you can build on that toward the end of the season, where you can obviously peak for sectionals and districts,” Sandridge said. 

Thomas is scheduled to host Olentangy Berlin on Feb. 11 in a league dual. The Cardinals will compete in a Division I sectional Feb. 27 at Upper Arlington.

sborgna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSteve