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The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

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April 21, 2024

Coach Manon achieves 200 wins and state championship in a thrilling wrestling season

Thanks to head coach Derek Manon, all eyes are now on the Whitman wrestling team.

At the high school level, wrestling doesn’t tend to attract as much attention as basketball or football. However, thanks to head coach Derek Manon, all eyes are now on the Whitman wrestling team. After 19 years of coaching, Manon achieved 200 career wins during the 2023-24 season while leading Whitman to the Maryland 4A State Championship this year. 

Manon wrestled for six years throughout middle and high school, ultimately opting to play college football at Saint Francis University in Pennsylvania. During his undergraduate years, he never thought about wrestling and was instead looking to pursue a teaching job after getting his diploma, Manon said. After receiving his degree in education, he moved to Maryland to start working at an elementary school in the Montgomery County area, where he grew close to a colleague who was an ex-wrestler. 

After being invited to watch a wrestling practice, Manon remembered how much he loved the sport. He became a volunteer coach at Northwest High School for a few years before receiving an offer to be the assistant coach at Magruder High School. He had a winning record while part of the coaching staff at Magruder High School. After a few years of success at Magruder, he took on a full-time head coaching job in 2006 at Whitman.  

With 19 years of experience, Manon has employed several coaching styles throughout his career, he said. 

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“As a younger person, I maybe focused too much on wins and losses, whereas over the last several years, I’ve been trying to focus more on growing them into young men and women on the team,” Manon said. “Don’t worry too much about the wins and losses. If you continue to work, we always say ‘trust the process.’”

On Feb. 6, Manon hit 200 wins as Whitman wrestling’s head coach. Despite his accomplishment, Manon had something else in mind for the rest of the season: bringing home a state championship. Manon focused on tactics for each wrestler rather than the results of each match. As the season progressed, he realized that the results are more rewarding when individual strategy and skill are the focus, he said. His coaching style contributed to the team’s perfect season, going undefeated and capturing the state championship.

However, in wrestling, there isn’t just the team state championship — there’s also an individual championship. Each team has 14 athletes, with one player representing each weight class. When competing at the individual championship, Coach Manon takes a different approach to coaching. 

“During the season, you wrestle all 14 players. They compete in their own match, then you combine all of that for an overall team score,” Manon said. “There’s a little bit more coaching involved there and strategy because you can move wrestlers up and down weight classes depending on particular matchups, and who you want them to wrestle against.”

When it gets to the individual tournament, his players can be a bit more selfish, he said. They can be more selfish because it’s them alone. They don’t have a whole team behind them, it’s their run to the championship. In the individual round, the lack of a team score means that each wrestler is alone. 

“It’s special when you get your hand raised because it’s only you out there,” Manon said. “There’s not 10 other guys on a football field or four other guys on the basketball court who are helping you.”

 Each player discusses their strengths and weaknesses with Manon, what they need to do to capitalize on their advantages in the match and the best strategies to get them in a position to win. Some wrestlers favor an offensive style and go after their opponent immediately; others prefer to be more defensive, waiting for their opponent to strike and then retaliating. 

“At this point it’s either win by one point, or they pin a kid in 30 seconds,” Manon said. “It’s survive and advance, just move on however you can advance.”

Understanding each wrestler’s style allows Manon to capitalize on the strengths of each athlete for the individual tournament. To succeed, he’ll coach them individually at practice. Manon feels that he doesn’t have to worry about the team losing motivation because of their maturity and resilience and does not doubt that his players will be able to accomplish more and bring back individual championships for themselves in the future.

“They keep their eyes on the prize and continue to work hard,” Manon said.

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About the Contributor
Mia Kanczuker
Mia Kanczuker, Sports Writer
Grade 11 Why did you join the Black and White? I love writing and sports, so being a sports writer gave me a combination of two things I love. What is your favorite song of all time? Feeling Whitney - Post Malone

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