CHESHIRE — The wrestling program at Cheshire High School is now in home-grown hands.
Cheshire native Drew Pichnarcik will take the reins of the Rams this winter. The 24-year old, who now lives in Wallingford, comes in from Xavier, where he was an assistant coach.
His roots, though, are in Cheshire.
“I grew up in the Cheshire youth wrestling program,” Pichnarcik said Thursday. “The Cheshire program had a lot seasons where they produced a lot of really good wrestlers that went on to have success at high school and college.”
Pichnarcik is Cheshire’s third wrestling coach in the last six years and the second in the last two. He replaces Bill Lee of Southington, who coached the Rams for one season last winter. Jake Dilts ran the program the four years prior.
One issue over the years for the team has been low numbers and not filling out a complete lineup. That’s a trend that Pichnarcik hopes to reverse.
“I’m working with the youth program now through the Cheshire Park & Rec,” Pichnarcik said. “We are starting to work with that and getting back on its feet again. The earlier you start with wrestling the better. It’s easier to break bad habits as a sixth- or seventh-grader than as a sophomore in high school.”
Pichnarcik graduated from Xavier in 2012. There, he was part of two Class LL championship teams. As a senior, Pichnarcik finished fourth in Class LL at 182 pounds. That year, the Middletown school won the State Open.
Pichnarcik went on to wrestle at Roger Williams in Rhode Island and has coached Xavier’s junior varsity squad the last three years.
He graduated from Roger Williams with a degree in History and Secondary Education. He’s currently a ninth grade history teacher at Achievement First Amistad High School-New Haven.
Pichnarcik said his message to his wrestlers will be to have fun.
“Go out there and fall in love with the sport,” Pichnarcik said. “It’s something I did. I want them to have fun doing it. Wrestling did more for me than I ever did for it. Just fall in love with the sport and it will help you in all aspects of your life.”
Pichnarcik’s assistant will be Joe O’Donnell, who was previously a volunteer assistant.
“I’ve learned from a lot from a lot of great coaches in high school and college,” Pichnarcik said. “I want to soak up all of that and bring my own approach to this team. I want to make sure the kids are having fun. I know numbers have been an issue. It’s hard to have fun forfeiting matches and being down 36-0 before the match even starts. But go out there and have fun. It’s a fun sport.”