DePaul High alum A.J. Mott is ready to take over as head wrestling coach at his alma mater, after a long and successful run by Keith Karsen.
Mott, a 2010 graduate of DePaul, where he excelled for the wrestling program, led by Karsen, was an assistant coach for the Spartans the past four years.
Mott succeeds Karsen, who remains an educator at DePaul, but will now be head wrestling coach at The Pingry School.
Read more on Karsen’s new challenge, here. https://mikelamberti.wordpress.com/2019/11/19/after-a-tremendous-career-at-depaul-catholic-keith-karsen-off-to-a-new-challenge-as-wrestling-coach-at-the-pingry-school/
A native of Wayne, Mott was very excited about the opportunity to be head coach at DePaul.
“Keith did an incredible job here,” said Mott. “I’m happy for him, as he pursues a new coaching job. Replacing ‘The Guy’ is never easy, but I’m looking forward to it. They are big shoes to fill.
“I have a great coaching staff here in (returning assistant and DePaul graduate) Trevor (Melde) and Pat Gerish, who is now on board, as an assistant.”
Melde was a NJSIAA champion in 2007 at Delbarton and a state finalist for DePaul as a senior, in 2008. Gerish wrestled in high school at Newark Academy and had a tremendous collegiate career at the University of Maryland. Gerish’s younger brother, Jake, is expected to be on the DePaul squad this season.
The transition from assistant to head coach was a quick one.
“I got a call from Coach (Joe) Lennon (DePaul’s athletic director) a few weeks ago, asking if I’d be interested in the head coaching job,” said Mott. “Keith was very supportive, as well, in the process and everything went smoothly.
“I know our returning wrestlers were surprised when they heard Keith was leaving, but there will be a familiar staff when we begin practice (on Nov. 25) so it should go well.”
DePaul had put together some marvelous seasons on the mat over the past 15 seasons, including eight straight state sectional crowns, four consecutive Non-Public B state championships and five district titles. Heading into this season, the team has won seven consecutive Passaic County Tournament championships.
Mott was a big part of that success, as a scholastic wrestler. Wrestling at 189, 171, then back at 189 pounds and eventually, 215, he won three District 4 championships, was a 2-time regional finalist and Region 1 champion in 2009.
He finished as high as sixth in the state at the NJSIAA Tournament, in Atlantic City, in 2010, at 215 pounds. He also finished third at the prestigious Beast of the East Tournament.
Mott compiled 132-20 mark, setting the DePaul High record for most career wins, at the time. In addition, he was a 4-time Passaic County champion and finished third as a sophomore in the NHSCA Nationals. Mott also earned three letters for baseball, at DePaul.
After high school, Mott wrestled at Cumberland University, then went on to Grandview University, in Des Moines, Ia.
“Wrestling at Grandview made me much better,” said Mott. “Coach (Nick) Mitchell (Grandview’s head coach) taught me so much about team concept and the sport, overall.”
Mott was looking forward to the start of practice.
“We want to get the kids on the mat and work a few days before the Thanksgiving Day holiday,” said Mott. “Right now, our numbers are good, but I’ll have a better idea once we get a few days in.”
Among the returning wrestlers this year will be Connor O’Neill, a senior and Rutgers commit, along with Eddie Bierals. O’Neill was a Powerade champion last season and finished second in the state at 160 pounds in the NJSIAA Tournament.
“Both Connor and Eddie will be our most experienced wrestlers,” said Mott. “We lost a lot of hammers from last year’s team. There were nine seniors that we relied on in our lineup. But that’s part of the sport in high school and we’re looking forward to seeing which kids will step up into starting roles.”
Mott is also optimistic that Haley Perez, the first female wrestler in the DePaul program last winter will be ready to make a run toward a state championship in 2020. Female wrestling had a good debut as a varsity sport last season.
The Spartans will open the season at the Beast of the East, on Dec. 21 and 22, then have a quick turnaround, with a trip to the Powerade Tournament, on Dec. 27 and 28, in Canonsburg, Pa. There is also the Tim Groves Memorial Tournament, at West Orange High, on New Year’s Eve.
“Absolutely, we’re ready to go,” said Mott. “It’s a busy start with the Beast, Powerade and then West Orange, but it will be our kids some really good work early on.”