Stout Steps Down as Southern Wrestling Coach After 18 Seasons

By DAVID BIGGY | Apr 17, 2019
Photo by: David Biggy After 18 seasons, John Stout (right) has decided to step down as the Southern Regional wrestling team’s head coach. Longtime assistant Dan Roy (left) will take over the program.

Throughout his tenure as the Southern Regional wrestling team’s head coach, John Stout has been in the corner or matside for dozens of sensational bouts.

Some have featured future Olympians, while others featured one of the many hard-nosed, gritty Rams who didn’t get a ton of recognition and delivered a huge win in team championship contest. During the past few years, a whole bunch of them have included his son, John.

But now, after 18 outstanding seasons, Stout has decided it’s time to hand over the program to somebody else.

“It wasn’t like I wasn’t enjoying it anymore, because I still love wrestling,” Stout said. “But there’s always this internal clock ticking, and there comes a point when it’s time to move on and do something else. It’s tough to do it. But when’s the perfect time? I’m not leaving things undone or not done. I wanted to make sure the program was in the right spot and in the right hands, and it is. My family and I are comfortable with this decision. Eighteen years is a long time and we’ve been able to accomplish a few things.”

Truth be told, Southern had accomplished a lot more than a few things under Stout. When he took over for the 2001-02 season, Southern was a solid program. With Stout at the helm, the Rams rose to another level.

“When you’re developing a high school team, you’re not dealing with professional athletes or even college-level athletes, so the ability level varies,” he said. “Back when I took the program, the focus was to take the guys we had on the team and make them good wrestlers. And if we could have a team good enough to have 14 kids place in the district, we’d have a really good team. We’ve come close. We’ve had 12 or 13 place and go to the region tournament – we never got that 14th one – but the goal was to have a team full of kids who would give us everything they had when they went out on the mat and be a success together.”

Southern became synonymous with the words grit, toughness, hard-working and relentless. Every opposing coach went into a match knowing the Rams weren’t there to simply show up. They aimed for the top, to be the best, every season. And the results spoke for themselves.

Under Stout’s guidance, the Rams won five Shore Conference Class A South titles in one of the state’s toughest divisions. But it was in the postseason Southern really shined, as it snagged 12 NJSIAA South Jersey crowns, won a trio of state titles, including this past season’s Group V crown, and finished atop the district team standings 17 times.

“Part of the plan was to be No. 1 in the state every year,” Stout said. “We didn’t want to just be good locally, in our division. It’s great to go around saying you’re the best kid on the block, but it’s better to be able to say you’re the best kid in the whole town. That’s probably the thing I’m most proud about, that our program rose to become a state power and consistently has continued to be one. That’s the best compliment I’ve received from other coaches, that we’re consistently good.”

Of course, that doesn’t happen because of one man, and Stout knows it.

“My dad was in the military for a while, and we’d talk about what makes a good soldier, a good general, a good commander. I also have a friend who’s successful in the business world, and we’ve talked about what makes a good employee, a good manager, a good CEO,” Stout explained. “It always comes down to developing the people around you. When you do what it takes to make them stronger, that’s going to make the whole organization stronger. The general eats last. He makes sure everybody else comes first.”

Sure, the Rams have had some amazing wrestlers – Frank Molinaro, Luke Lanno, Glenn Carson, Brian Broderick, Kyle Casaletto, Zach and Matt Wilhelm, and Nick O’Connell easily come to mind. After all, Stout has coached 71 district champs, 46 region winners, 28 state placewinners and four state champions. But it’s always been the proverbial role players who have made Southern the program it’s become, Stout says.

“We’re talking the Dan Halls, the Robbie Hickmans, the Greg Mieles ... those kinds of guys,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of tough, hard-nosed kids come through the program and did whatever I asked them to do to help the team, and they’re the reasons we were so successful for so many years.”

So, what have been some of Stout’s favorite team moments during his coaching career? As tough it was to narrow it down to a few, he picked the first time Southern defeated former perennial power Absegami to win the 2005 South Jersey sectional crown, this past winter’s South Jersey Group V championship win over Howell, and his squad’s victory in the famed “Pit” at Phillipsburg High School in 2016.

Among his favorite individual-wrestler bouts in which he was sitting in the corner are the Molinaro-Jordan Burroughs 125-pound state final in 2005 – when Molinaro became the first state champ under his reign – along with Matt Wilhelm’s Region VI title win over Joe Ghione in 2014 and the day in 2007 when Stout had to keep swiveling in his seat to help coach Lanno and Molinaro in the Beast of the East semifinals.

“I’ll miss the prep stuff and the pre-match speeches,” Stout said. “I’ll definitely miss the excitement of coming out for matches. I’ve been fortunate to be able to experience so much on so many level in so many gyms. But I’m also excited to move on and see what else is out there.”

Longtime assistant Dan Roy will take the reins from here.

“Danny’s ready to go,” Stout said. “He has a different presence than I do, a different delivery than I do, but he’s got the energy and the knowledge to do a great job. With his work ethic and desire to see the program succeed, he’ll be fine. The program’s in great hands.”

biggy@thesandpaper.net

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