Schumacher reviving Mustangs wrestling

When Richard Schumacher took over the Meadowcreek wrestling program last season, he knew it would be a challenge.

The Mustangs hadn’t been competitive in the sport since the early 1990s and struggled to field a full team in recent years.


What: Mustang Pride Duals

When: Saturday, 9 a.m.

Where: Meadowcreek High School

Teams: Clarkston, North Paulding, Adairsville, Armuchee, Southeast Whitfield, Fellowship Christian, Central Gwinnett, Meadowcreek, Gordon Lee, Northview

Last Saturday, Schumacher’s Mustangs got their first taste of success. Meadowcreek placed second at the Duluth Duals, the first tournament trophy for the program in more than 15 years.

“I was surprised we did this and I can’t stop smiling,” Schumacher said.

The Mustangs went 3-2 at the tournament to improve their dual record to 8-5 and match their win total from last season’s 8-16 mark. Meadowcreek lost to Greater Atlanta Christian 41-30 in the finals.

“They are becoming believers, and that’s important,” Schumacher said.

After getting their first trophy, the Mustangs will try for a second when they host the school’s first-ever dual tournament on Saturday. The Mustang Pride Duals will feature 10 teams, including Central Gwinnett and Gordon Lee as the tournament favorites.

“It’s a little about building a tradition and a little about raising some money,” Schumacher said of the tournament. “I wanted to do something with a little splash.”

Schumacher was hired last August after spending the previous season as an assistant on Collins Hill’s 2008-09 state championship team. When he took over the program he only had two athletes with any wrestling experience. He finished the season with just 20 kids in the program, but has 32 wrestlers on the team this season.

“Last year was just a challenge to get some kids out for the team,” Schumacher said. “This year people want to be part of something that’s successful.”

Schumacher and his assistant Melton Hardee bring a wealth of wrestling knowledge to the room, which has helped attract wrestlers to the program. Hardee wrestled at Winston-Salem State University, while Schumacher was a four-time All-American at East Stroudsburg, where he also won a national title. The last time Schumacher was a head coach was in the 1970s at Bucknell University. He’s used his experience at the college level at Meadowcreek.

Schumacher had his team participate in summer wrestling camps and fall wrestling, which was unheard of in years past.

“They are doing things wrestlers are supposed to do,” Schumacher said.

The extra mat time has helped the season. After having just a handful of wrestlers with experience last year, Schumacher has a solid core of seven or eight wrestlers to build around.

LaDarius Stubbs is a promising freshman with a 6-2 record at 103 pounds this season, and sophomore Robert Nguyen has tremendous upside. Schumacher has gone to other sports to recruit wrestlers.

Dante Bennett is a pole vaulter on the track team who has blossomed this season. His win in the semifinals against Newton at the Duluth Duals put the Mustangs in the finals.

The team also features several football players, including linebacker Alex Steele, running back Richard Williams, who was third at the county meet last year, and linemen Anthony Thomas and Keith Hagger at heavyweight. Hagger wrestled for the first time last Saturday and picked up two pins.

Rene DeLuna and senior Jose Olivares are also having strong seasons.

“The kids pull for each other and have a hunger to win,” Schumacher said. “We just have to keep improving every day. They are becoming believers in that every day. It’s been a fast, but interesting journey.”