Southern did not have a region champion or a state medalist in 2016, and although head coach John Stout will be the first to tell you he isn't happy with that statistic, it makes what the Rams accomplished this season even more impressive.

Southern's calling card was a balanced lineup filled with equal parts skill, toughness and heart. There were no superstars, just a collection of lunch-pail wrestlers willing to do whatever it took to win. Winning was exactly what Southern did. The Rams went 16-1, claiming the Class A South division title and going all the way in winning the NJSIAA Group V title with a thrilling 27-24 victory over Howell. It's hard to win without at least one dominant wrestler, and usually more than a couple are needed. Southern embodied the word "team", and for that reason Stout is our choice as the 2016 Shore Sports Network Wrestling Coach of the Year.

Southern's John Stout is the 2016 Shore Sports Network Wrestling Coach of the Year. (Photo by Ray Richardson).

 

To beat Southern a team couldn't make any mistakes because Southern was relentless in its approach at every spot in the lineup. Even when one of their top wrestlers lost it didn't effect them. It was hard to steal momentum from the Rams because their next-man-up mentality worked to perfection.

"I have to say without a doubt this is the best wrestling team I've ever coach," Stout said. "It's a team from 'T' to 'M'. Everyone was on board. Everyone drank the Kool-Aid and did what they were supposed to do. They sacrificed themselves the best way they could. It was an incredible experience for me as a coach."

Southern's only loss of the season came on Dec. 30 to Delsea, which was undefeated all the way up until the Group III final where it was defeated by South Plainfield. From there, Southern won its final 15 matches and finished No. 2 in the state in the final NJ.com ranking. Along the way the Rams beat Central Jersey Group IV champion Jackson Memorial, 32-13, finished 13th at the powerful Escape the Rock Tournament in Pennsylvania and beat Brick Memorial, 37-27. For the fifth straight season Southern didn't enter the Shore Conference Tournament, but they still picked up a huge win on the day of the SCT final by going up to Phillipsburg and taking out the eventual Group IV champion Stateliners, 33-31, inside the famed "Pit" gymnasium.

In the state tournament, Southern crushed Cherokee and Kingsway to win their 11th sectional title and 10th in the last 12 seasons. They dispatched Clifton, 48-21, in the Group V semifinals before their sensational win over Howell where senior Mike Racanelli was the hero thanks to a 2-1 win over Howell's Peter Dee in a swing bout at 138 pounds. The group title was Southern's second and first since 2005.

Southern then won the District 24 team title with seniors Teddy Caporrino (145) and Peyton Blauvelt (170), and junior Seon Bowker (160) winning individual titles. The Rams had 11 wrestlers qualify for the Region VI Tournament where Caporrino and Blauvelt finished second and senior Pat Mooney (152) and sophomore Matt Barnett (126) finished third to also reach the state tournament.

Stout was honored as District 24 Coach of the Year and Region VI Coach of the Year, and at the state tournament was picked as the New Jersey Wrestling Coaches Association State Coach of the Year.

 

Wrestling editor Bob Badders can be reached at badders@allshoremedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.