Fans of Shamokin Area football took notice to Max Madden this fall when he showed his skills as a running back for coach Henry Hynoski’s Indians.
As much as he stands out in football, though, it is wrestling where the freshman is expected to make his biggest mark.
“I think I like wrestling a little bit more,” Madden said in an interview Thursday night after he got his 11th pin of the season at Shikellamy.
“All the work I put into wrestling, I can see from it,” said the son of Dave and Holly Madden, after improving his record in his rookie season to 16-2. Madden earned his 12th pin of the year during Saturday’s dual meet against North Schuylkill and improved to 17-2.
That hard work got the attention of veteran Shamokin Area head wrestling coach Todd Hockenbroch.
“Max put the dedication into this past off-season in the weight room and I think that’s the biggest difference; he’s brought the strength along with his natural ability,” said Hockenbroch, himself a former PIAA medalist.
Although he wrestled at 160 pounds on Thursday, Madden said he expects to stick at 152 for the season, and for the post-season.
Hockenbroch said, “‘152 is a tough weight class, especially being a freshman in that weight class, and he’s as good as anybody right now.”
That shows in the latest Northeast Regional Class 2A rankings. Madden is ranked fifth at 152, behind three seniors and a sophomore and only two of them, Midd-West senior Kameron Kline and Montoursville sophomore Cael Crebs are also from District 4.
Yet Madden is not surprised at the great start to his first varsity season.
“Last year I took sixth in the junior high state (tournament) and this year, as a freshman, I knew I would be able to do good and I’ve been working hard and doing my best out there,” he said.
“I put my work in in the gym and I expected to come out and do well as a freshman,” he added.
Madden said the extra work was the biggest thing with jumping to the high school level.
“I try to stay in my best shape. I do a lot of cardio and conditioning, lifting after practices and working hard,” he said.
The hard work came along with making the transition from football, where the Indians had their best season in several years.
“(The transition) wasn’t too bad. Before (football) was over, I started cutting down on my weight, I started running more to get into conditioning and got right back into the mat room a week later,” he said.
Hockenbroch said, “If he didn’t put that time in in the weight room this summer, maybe it would be something different, but Max made the decision he wants to be a dominant athlete in general, so he put that time in.”
The coach said that Madden’s outstanding play with the football team certainly helped his confidence when he stepped onto the mats as a freshman with the varsity squad.
“Any freshman who gets the opportunity to make an impact, not just play, but make an impact, as he did with our football team, helped him with confidence in wrestling, absolutely,” Hockenbroch said.
Madden’s interest in the sport came early. His father, Dave, a former Indians wrestler, got him started in competition in kindergarten.
“I was like 5 years old and I’ve been wrestling for 11 years now — my whole life,” he said. “My dad always wrestled, and he always wanted me to wrestle. He was very big on me wrestling and it’s a big part of my life.”
Madden is perfect in his four dual meets with four falls in as many appearances, and placed third in two grueling tournaments, the Darren Klingerman Invitational at Bloomsburg University and the Panther Holiday Classic at Mount Aloysius College in Cresson.
His losses, both in the quarterfinals, were 3-1 to Hanover Area’s Daniel Erickson in Bloomsburg and 5-4 to Sammy Toggas of Maryland’s Emmanuel Christian Institute in Cresson.
Madden went on a tear after his loss to Erickson, the first as a varsity wrestler, and pinned his next two opponents in a combined 1 minute, 59 seconds. At Cresson, he followed the loss with a pin, then two wins by default, the last one over Toggas.
“The (losses) inspire me to do better through the rest of the matches in the tournament,” he said.
Madden’s goal as a freshman is to qualify for the state tournament.
“I think I need to work on my technique a little bit more, make things more crisp,” he said.
Hockenbroch said that Madden’s goal is something the coaches teach all the wrestlers.
“Every one of our kids, we try to feed into their heads that they’re able to compete with anybody at the highest level and that’s what we teach day in and day out, and I expect nothing less of out of him or any of our athletes,” Hockenbroch said.
For a wrestling program that has struggled with lack of numbers for several years, Madden and several of his classmates have also brought hope to Hockenbroch and the staff.
The head coach has been excited to get the youngsters into his room.
“Oh, yeah, Max and our entire freshman class, we have been waiting on them for a long time,” Hockenbroch said. “The parents put a lot of time in with them when they were younger. So did our elementary and junior high coaches.
“It will be fun to watch for the next couple years,” he said.
Shikellamy coach Mike Egan said as much after the dual with the Indians, and added, referring to Madden, “And their best wrestler is a freshman.”
The Indians have nine freshmen and only one senior on the team.
As for his future this season, Madden isn’t concerned with who is out there at his weight class.
“I didn’t really look,” he said this week. “I don’t know who’s at my weight right now, I just go out there and wrestle the same every time.”
Sounds like that could be a winning formula.