Fourteen wins was a respectable start to Sean Thompson’s career, but the West Windsor-Plainsboro High South wrestler wanted more—a lot more.
“I wanted to be good,” Thompson said. “I felt like I wasn’t doing enough work my freshman year. I wanted to be committed to wrestling. I wanted to be a better wrestler. I wanted to make a name for myself.”
Thompson did everything he could after a 14-19 freshman year to make himself into a standout wrestler. He joined clubs, he trained relentlessly, he entered tournaments and every step pushed him to do more.
“I’ve matured more, I’ve become more responsible,” Thompson said. “I’m more dedicated to wrestling and I have a full commitment to it. It’s increased my discipline by a ton.”
It worked. Fast forward three years and the WW-P South senior sits high near the top of the list of all-time Pirate greats thanks to the culmination of his efforts in his final scholastic season.
Thompson won his second Mercer County Tournament title on Jan. 28, then on Feb. 11 he recorded his 100th career win—following former teammate Nick Maher from the year before in becoming just the second Pirate to that milestone.
A week later took second at 138 pounds in the District 17 championships on Feb. 18 to advance to his second career Region 5 championships.
“The tournaments I’ve won so far, and 100th win, it’s all paid off,” Thompson said. “If I hadn’t listened to my coach, if I hadn’t put the work in, it wouldn’t have gone here.”
Thompson was a gymnast for seven years until middle school. He gave up gymnastics when he didn’t have the passion for it, but that core strength from gymnastics paid dividends when he tried wrestling. Results were modest at first, but he had a passion to improve.
“I wasn’t so good in middle school, and I was OK my freshman year, but I didn’t put in a lot of work,” Thompson said. “After my freshman year, that’s when I went to clubs and I trained in the offseason and that’s when I started getting better. Once I got into my sophomore year, everything clicked.
‘He’s been a good leader for the team and set a great example for people to follow.’
Thompson trained with the Central Jersey Association under Gene Lezark for freshman into sophomore year and then trained toward the shore with Nick Roy’s Triumph Wrestling. Then-Pirates head coach Darren Schulman also emphasized the offseason work that he needed to improve. His attitude had changed by the time he came back for his second year of high school.
“My freshman year, I was a little timid about who I wrestled,” Thompson said. “My sophomore year, I wouldn’t care who I wrestled. I’d just go out to wrestle for me. I learned more moves, my technique improved, my strength improved too. Besides going to wrestling, I’d go to a program for weightlifting and make sure I ran every day so I kept my physique up.”
Maher was Thompson’s training room partner the first three years, and it helped mold him into a tougher wrestler in-season too. The hard work and growth contributed to reaching his 100th career win, a pin in 1:13 of Freehold Boro’s Jake Mostowsky.
“It’s significant,” said first-year WW-P South head coach Warren Gerstacker. “It shows we’re developing success and developing the culture around it. We’re reaching out to younger years and we’re trying to build a good program over at South. Hopefully we can make that happen. And Sean will be an important part of that by setting a tone for the sort of things we’d like to do more often.”
Thompson has shown steady improvement each year. After his 14-19 freshman year, he went 27-7 and won his first Mercer County title as a sophomore. Last year, he hit the 30-win plateau at 30-5 and reached his first region tournament with a third-place finish at districts. That set him up for this year.
“It’s my final year,” Thompson said. “I want to make it big this year.”
He has done so with solid efforts on the mat all year that have pushed him to a career-best 31-3 season record heading into regions.
“He wrestles aggressively all the time,” Gerstacker said. “He wrestles his own style all the time and he tends to dictate the pace of his matches. He’s constantly putting pressure on the other guy and doesn’t relax and doesn’t slow down. He’s solid in every position, if he’s on his feet, on top, on bottom, I’m always confident he can pull through and score the points he needs to score.”
Thompson was one of four WW-P South wrestlers to reach the regions by placing in the top three in their weight class at districts. The Pirates had one individual champion, Steven O’Campo, who won the 152-pound weight class with 7-6 decision over Shea Obado of Spotswood in a revenge match.
Brandon Murray was second at 106 after a loss to Tyler Klinsky of Middletown North. Joseph Salerno fought to third in 132 with pin of Nate Pujols of Middletown North in 2:31.
With Maher graduating and now wrestling at Franklin and Marshall College, this year Thompson has partnered with O’Campo and Salerno in the wrestling room.
“I love to wrestle with both of those guys,” Thompson said. “They push me to do whatever I can. They’re overall good wrestlers. They’ve been training in the offseason. They know what it means to be a wrestler. They know to put the hard work in. We’re excited to go to regions. We’re ready.”
Thompson came into the season with the ultimate goals of recording his 100th career win and making his first trip to Atlantic City, where the top three region finishers in each weight class compete at the Tournament of Champions.
“It’d be really great,” Thompson said. “That’s one of my biggest goals this year – to get to AC. It’d be just as big as getting to 100 wins, or bigger.”
Reaching the state finals would give the WW-P South program another reason to follow his example. As a team captain, he has tried to role model the effort it takes to be one of the best.
“He’s grown throughout the year,” Gerstacker said. “He gets the guys fired up and motivated. He sets a good example by wrestling hard in the room. He’s usually a pretty quiet kid and doesn’t talk too much. I think that’s a good quality in people sometimes. He’s been a good leader for the team and set a great example for people to follow.”