Winter Sports Turnaround


Senior Captain Johnny Adams congratulates his teammates.

Peter Hoegler

Senior Captain Johnny Adams congratulates his teammates.
Senior Captain Johnny Adams congratulates his teammates.

When you walk into the Walpole High School gymnasium, what do you notice? You notice the banners, the success of past sports teams. It’s hard not to recognize the field hockey and football accolades, the basketball banners from 2004 and the early 60’s. But there is no need to beat around the bush; winter sports have never been Walpole’s forte. In the last few years, Boys Hockey, Boys Basketball, Wrestling, and Gymnastics have been the inspiration behind numerous jokes at their own expense, while Indoor Track, Girls Hockey, and Girls Basketball have been dominating the Bay State League. Nonetheless, this 2012-13 Winter Sports season has been one to remember. Boys Hockey, Wrestling, and Gymnastics are enjoying their first successful seasons since the late 90’s and early 2000’s while Girls Basketball and Girls Indoor Track are atop of the Herget Division once again, so the question remains: how can this be?

Athletic Director Coach Bill Tompkins believes that the winter sports successes are a direct result of last season’s woes. “These kinds of things happen in cycles,” said Tompkins. “There are always going to be rebuilding years where the teams are just not that strong. I think the athletes who were on the teams in 2011-2012 gained enough experience and motivation to turn around their season.”

Last year, most of the winter sports teams—with the exception of Girls Hockey and Basketball—were considered “cellar-dwellers” of the Bay State League and coaches thereby sought to play their younger talent. Now that these underclassmen have matured into varsity athletes, they can lead their respected teams to greater success and better records.

For instance, last year, now senior Captain Johnny Adams of the Boys Basketball team was called upon to start at point guard for his inexperienced, 3-17 team.  Now Adams, in his senior season, is one of the best players in the BSL and has led his junior-senior orientated basketball team to a State Tournament berth. Coach St. Martin said, “We have the mental toughness this year and, honestly, I think we have all the pieces. I just think if we can stay positive, we can prove we’re a lot better than we were last year.” Boys Basketball spent most of the off-season in leagues at Mass Premier Courts to ensure that they post more tallies in the win column.

The same is true for the Wrestling team, which is led by senior Captains Caleb Cofsky and Eric Jansen. Wrestling is currently enjoying an 13-7 record and expecting to send a number of athletes to the sectional and state tournaments at season’s end. Cofsky said, “We are much more experienced because we only graduated two seniors. I think this year we have a more serious and intense mentality going into each match because we are now a well-respected and successful wrestling club.”

The Boys Hockey team, which returned a solid core of starters, not only has a new passion to win, but also a new coach in Ron Dowd. The Rebels have a remarkable 9-4-5 record, a turnaround from last year’s 3-8-6 losing season. Prior to Dowd accepting the job the Rebels had only won 13 games in three seasons. Senior Captains Alex Carde and John White credit their successful start to Dowd and a change in attitude: “There’s been a huge turnaround in attitude and passion in the past year, and I definitely think that’s translating into the games,” said White.

However, the most surprising turnaround has been the Gymnastics team. Winless a year ago, the gymnasts have finished with a 4-4 record and are expecting to send a few stand-out performers to the postseason. This team is led by junior Captain Olivia O’Hara and freshman Hannah Phelan, who consistently places on the vault, uneven bars, and the floor exercises. “Although we have a small team, we have much more talent and depth than year’s past,” said O’Hara. “We work extremely hard in the gym every day because we are motivated to achieve our season goal—make sectionals as a team.”

Perhaps this season could illustrate the ebb-and-flow of sports; that with the good seasons come the bad ones.  Maybe the 2011-2012 winter campaign was just a rebuilding year for the Rebels, or this year’s sports teams are just extremely talented and well-coached. But in order for this year’s winter season to become a memorable one, these  winter sports teams must demonstrate their true prowess in the state tournament and put up some new banners in the WHS gymnasium. We need something from this decade.