When Matt Grueninger got to high school, he wanted to try a new sport.
The Torresdale resident, who competed in track during his younger days, decided he wanted to give wrestling a go when he arrived at Roman Catholic High School.
You’ve heard of beginner’s luck? Well, Grueninger had the exact opposite.
“I hated it, I was the worst one on the team,” Grueninger said. “I won five matches, but four of them were by forfeit. I didn’t win my first match (on the mat) until my last match of my freshman year. I wasn’t good at all.”
That victory was a sign of things to come.
After the disappointing 5-20 season, Grueninger went right back to working hard after the season ended and the results were obvious.
He went 17-16 in his sophomore year.
Then went 29-9 as a junior.
The success is continuing this year, as he’s now 20-4 with 11 pins at 152 pounds and now he’s the exact opposite of the kid who was tentative and almost scared when he took the mat.
Now, he’s the leader of the Cahillites.
“It started to feel better right after freshman year,” Grueninger said. “I thought about quitting every day. I fell in love with the sport during my sophomore year and the better I did, the more I loved it.”
This year, he’s been the leader of a Roman team that qualified for the playoffs and defeated La Salle 46-24 before falling to Archbishop Wood 49-19 in the semifinals.
The loss ended the Cahillites’ quest for a Catholic League championship but Grueninger still has high hopes for his season.
“I think as a team, we had a good year,” Grueninger said. “Obviously, you want to win a championship but there are a lot of good teams in the Catholic League. I think we came a long way this year.”
And Grueninger’s career epitomizes how much Roman improved.
“We have a good team, and this year was successful,” said Grueninger, who has been a captain of the team for the past two seasons.
The team success could turn into a great individual season for Grueninger.
His ultimate goal is to make it to the state tournament in Hershey, but to do that, he has to have successful showings at the Catholic League individual tournament, the District 12 tournament and regions.
“I would love to represent Roman in Hershey,” said Grueninger, who took third in the district tournament a season ago. “It would mean a lot because I love wrestling for the school, but also because where I came from. I didn’t even think I’d be wrestling after my freshman year. I never thought I’d improve that much, so that I could make it to the state tournament. That never seemed possible.”
Grueninger has definitely come a long way on the mat, but he’s been just as successful off of it.
This year, Grueninger has been taking classes at Holy Family as part of the Diocesan Scholar Program. So far, he’s taken Calculus 1, Calculus 2 and Psychology.
At his high school, he’s a member of the National Honors Society and for his career, he ranks 13th in the school.
Next year, he’ll head to the Naval Academy with hopes of becoming an officer.
“A lot of my family has served, so I’ll go in for five years and go to school,” said Grueninger, who is scheduled to leave June 29. “It helps that it’s free. I hope to go in and come out with an engineering degree.”
The Naval Academy is tough, but Grueninger is used to putting in hard work.
Not only has he become an accomplished wrestler and is one of the top students in his school, but last summer Grueninger became an Eagle Scout, the highest achievement a Boy Scout can attain.
“My project was a movie night where I had an outdoor movie (at Maternity BVM), and instead of paying money, you had to bring a donation,” Grueninger said. “We watched the SpongeBob movie because I wanted to show a movie that would get kids and adults. We had a lot of donations. It was fun and it was a good cause.”
Now, the only cause he is worried about is leaving his mark on the Cahillites’ mats.
No matter how he finishes the season, he’s had a remarkable career of improvement, and while it’d be nice to walk away with some medals, he’s proud of what he accomplished.
“I wasn’t even good enough to wrestle (junior varsity) when I started, but I’m happy I stayed with it,” Grueninger said. “I’m glad I didn’t quit. I had a great year with great teammates and great coaches, and I’m having fun.”
A lot more than when he was a freshman. ••