Assistant Sports Editor
When Jason Holder took the assistant coaching position with the Springfield College wrestling team four years ago, he was looking to gain both his doctoral degree and a great deal of knowledge from then-head coach Darryl Arroyo.
While both of those things did go according to plan, coach Holder never would have guessed that he would also be succeeding one of the most successful coaches in collegiate wrestling.
“I really did not have any idea that coach Arroyo was planning on leaving,” said Holder. “I was expecting to finish out this year of graduate school and then move on. Then Darryl called me and recommended that I apply for the opening.”
Arroyo, who left to become the Director of Athletics at Alfred State, led the Pride to a 303-163-6 record over 21 seasons while winning 10 New England Wrestling Association (NEWA) championships.
There are no small shoes to fill, but Arroyo believes that Holder has the feet to fill them.
“I had been looking to move on for a while, and when Jason came in four years ago, I recognized that he had the ability to coach this team,” said Arroyo. “I began grooming him for the job, even if he didn’t know it.”
Holder, who prior to SC was the head coach at Plymouth State, takes over a team that is coming off a NEWA championship and was just recently ranked No. 1 in New England’s Division III poll.
While the ranking is nice, Holder believes that they will need to prove that they deserve it.
“Of course we want to win the championship,” said Holder. “But we need to look at each week as an opportunity to get better. We have a lot of guys coming back who started last year, namely senior-captain Ryan McGilvray, who knows this and will come in with the right mindset.”
McGilvray, who finished second at the NEWA championships last year, leads a strong group of wrestlers who started matches last season. Junior Joe Grippi, who was a NEWA champion in 2010, is rated 10th at the 133-pound weight class. Also returning are juniors Jeremy Burns (185), Mike Fish (174) and Derek Longo (165).
The Pride will take to the mat this weekend as they travel to the Ithaca Invitational where they will meet five teams ranked in the top-30 nationally. Alfred State and their new athletic director will be also be appearing at the tournament.
“I cannot wait to see Darryl this weekend,” said Holder. “He has been such a role model for me, and he taught me so much. It should be fun.”
Arroyo will find himself rather torn, but when it comes down to it, the maroon and white will need to stay in the back pocket.
“I guess I’ll be cheering for Alfred and Springfield this weekend,” said Arroyo. “Unless they face each other, then I’ll have to root for our guys from Alfred.”
Jimmy Kelley may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org