Wilcox Credits Morales With Much Of Golden Cougars’ Success

Head coach Drew Wilcox, left, and assistant coach Dan Morales worked the Falconer/Cassadaga Valley for 28 wins this season. P-J file photo

Anyone who has spent even one day following the schedule of a wrestling tournament knows that there is a lot of ground to cover when it comes to coaching.

Coaches, especially when hosting other schools, are responsible for coordinating officials and event staff as well as monitoring each of the grapplers on their team across 15 different weight classes.

Suffice it to say that there are a lot of moving pieces.

When looking at the responsibilities of a coaching staff across the board, and the results produced this past season, no group shined brighter than those in charge of the combined Falconer/Cassadaga Valley team.

While Drew Wilcox boasts a resume that would welcome the award of coach of the year, the Golden Cougars head coach has opted to defer the honor of 2017-18 Post-Journal Wrestling Coach of the Year to his assistant coach, Dan Morales.

There are plenty of programs that run straight down from the head coach, but for Wilcox, the job has always worked better with two minds at the helm.

Ever since Wilcox took over as head coach at Falconer six years ago, Morales has been there every step of the way.

It’s hard to argue with the most recent results — a perfect 6-0 season to claim a seventh consecutive Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association Division 1 title, the sixth Section VI Class C title in a row, a 28-6 overall record and four representatives at the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Division II Championships in Albany.

“I think it is huge for us,” Wilcox said of Morales’ impact on his team. “I think it’s huge to have a guy who knows the ins and outs of the program because he wrestled in it, and he has been a key part of what we have been doing the last six years.”

Stemming from a family of wrestlers and coaches that have passed through the Falconer system over the decades, Morales has taken up the leadership torch that was once held by his father, Willie.

“His dad Willie started, he was the youth coach when Dan started coming up. The whole family has been highly supportive of the wrestling program since we got here,” Wilcox said. “His strengths are my weaknesses, which is a big reason that we’ve been so successful the last six years.”

It is easy to look at the record of a program and make assumptions about the level of coaching, but the past few years offer more tangible evidence of how Wilcox and Morales have helped their wrestlers succeed.

Looking back into the past few seasons, there was one case that stood out to Wilcox on this front.

“One of the biggest ones that I remember was three years ago when we upset Olean at Olean. It came down to the last match tied and Seth Abbey had to ride their kid out,” Wilcox said. “On the fly Coach Morales threw a move on me on the side to show (Seth) what to do, and that’s how he finished the guy. That was the only reason that we had won that match. Had he not done that I don’t think we would have won that match.”

This past year, the in-match knowledge of Falconer/Cassadaga Valley’s coaching staff played just as big of a role as it had three years ago.

In a key match at the Section VI Division II Championships at Lake Shore High School, Falconer/Cassadaga Valley senior Robbie Penhollow fell into some trouble late in his 170-pound final match.

Opponent Jacob Sarow of Akron/Alden looked to have finished off the match with a Merkel lock in the closing minutes, but after the points were awarded Morales and Wilcox both exited their chairs to lobby a complaint with the protest committee.

Following an overrule from the officiating committee, Penhollow was able to finish off Sarow with an escape in the second tiebreaker, and earn his sectional title.

“Coach Wilcox and Morales are so smart when it comes to the sport,” Penhollow said following the win. “They knew from the second they called that two (points) that they were going to win that call when they went to go protest it.”

Moments such as Abbey’s need for advice and Penhollow’s officiating jam are the times when coaches really get a chance to make a difference, and for Wilcox the logic has always been that two heads are better than one.

“Dan is an outstanding corner coach. He sees a lot of things that myself and our other assistants don’t see,” Wilcox said looking back at Penhollow’s win. “He’s vital for some of the things that we’ve been doing.”

Of course those determining moments only become more important as you continue on into the wrestling postseason, heading toward the state tournament in Albany.

In 2018, a year when Falconer/Cassadaga Valley was flush with four No. 2 seeds in the tournament, there were times when even the tandem corner coaching of Wilcox and Morales was stretched thin, forcing the pair to jump between mats quickly during the most crucial bouts of the season.

Times like those are when it pays to have an assistant who works right in stride with a head coach.