John Stout steps down as Southern Regional wrestling coach
After 18 seasons and countless championships at one of the top wrestling programs in New Jersey, John Stout is stepping down as the head coach at Southern Regional.
“It’s one of those things where you feel like it’s time,” Stout told Shore Sports Network at Tuesday’s Jersey Shore Interscholastic Wrestling Association banquet. “It’s been 24 years overall and 18 as a head coach. I’ve done it for a really long time and my family and I have sacrificed quite a bit. With my kid moving on to college next year and my younger son going to be in eighth grade next year I want to have some freedom and, selfishly, to enjoy my family.”
Stout’s oldest son, also named John, set a program single-season record with 42 wins while repeating as champion in both District 29 and Region 8 this past season. He will continue his career in the Ivy League at the University of Pennsylvania.
“He’s 18 so I’ve been a head coach his entire life,” Stout said. “I want to be able to step back and enjoy it from a spectator’s point of view.”
Longtime assistant Dan Roy will take over as Southern's new head coach, Southern Regional athletic director Chuck Donohue Jr. confirmed to Shore Sports Network.
From the time Stout moved from assistant coach to head coach for the 2001-2002 season, Southern has been one the Garden State’s elite programs. The Rams won five Class A South division titles in arguably the state’s toughest division and won the 2011 Shore Conference Tournament. In the postseason, the Rams owned the South Jersey Group 4 and 5 sections with an astounding 12 NJSIAA sectional titles in 18 seasons and went on to capture three state titles, including the Group 5 title this past season. Southern also won an amazing 17 district team titles in 18 seasons and are in the midst of a nine-year winning streak.
Southern’s wrestlers also had great individual success under Stout’s tutelage. Stout coached 71 individual district champions, 46 region champions, 28 state place-winners and four state champions. Frank Molinaro won three straight NJSIAA titles from 2005-2007, won an NCAA championship at Penn State and was a member of the 2016 United States Olympic Team. Glenn Carson won the 215-pound state title in 2009 before a standout career as a linebacker at Penn State.
“A lot of good men went into that, from the rec program with guys like Bob Smith and Rich Ferguson and the guys who started the rec program years ago,” Stout said. “Then Tabb (former head coach Jerry Tabbachino) came along for many years and brought the program up to quite a level. Timing is a big part of it and I was able to step in at the right time and put a lot of time and energy and effort into it.”
Stout was able to go out on top in a season that had its peaks and valleys but ended on top of the mountain. The Rams suffered early-season losses to Jackson Memorial and High Point before losing to Toms River North in the A South title match. On Jan. 22, Southern lost to eventual Group 2 champion South Plainfield. The season would turn around for good four days later, however, when Southern earned a statement-making 32-16 win over reigning Group 4 champion Phillipsburg.
From there, the Rams waltzed into the South Jersey Group 5 final where they hosted Howell, the two-time defending Group 5 champion which entered with a 78-match winning streak. Clutch wins by Nick Pepe, Luke Galan and J.T. Cornelius sent the Rams to an epic 30-28 victory that dethroned the rival Rebels and paved the way for the school’s third overall state title. At the group championships in Toms River, Southern easily handled Passaic Tech in the Group 5 semifinals before beating Hunterdon Central, 34-27, on back-to-back pins by Ben LoParo and Cornelius at 195 and 220 pounds.
“It makes it a lot easier to step away under those circumstances,” Stout said. “I’m not leaving frustrated, I’m very excited and looking forward to the future. I have some things rolling around in my brain about what’s coming up next for me.”
Whenever a team squared off against Southern they knew exactly what they were getting into. The Rams built a reputation of being tough, well-conditioned and relentless. From the superstar to the unheralded wrestler, they were always a tough out one through 14. Regardless of who the program lost to graduation they would always come back the next year and remain a contender or favorite for division, conference, state and district championships.
“I really think our strength was focusing on; maybe not the superstars in the room because they’re easy, but you’re only as good as guys who need the most help,” Stout said. “That’s who we concentrated on. How do you improve? How do you make your program better, your organization better, your company better? The individuals who need the most help, you make them stronger, and I think that’s what we’ve always been able to do.”
Having high-end talent is great, and Southern has certainly had its share of the years, but the foundation of the program was those wrestlers who did not have the most talent but instead got the most out of their abilities by out-working their opponents and winning the mental battle.
“There are very few things you can control in a wrestling match, but your conditioning and your attitude are two of them,” Stout said. “If you can do that every time and you can do it on a very consistent basis, you’re going to win a lot more than you’re going to lose.”
While Stout is looking forward to having the freedom to see his son John wrestle in college and his youngest son move closer to his own high school career, he knows it won’t be a clean break from coaching. There will be times when he misses it.
“I think probably coming out of those doors behind the bleachers when “Thunderstruck” starts playing, seeing those guys and watching them get their hands raised and enjoying their personal success when they win, I’ll miss that the most,” Stout said. “But I think it will be fun to sit back and just watch them have their own success, as well.”
Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.