100th win worth the wait for Judge’s Kidwell

Matt Kidwell helped Judge win championships in two of the past three years. CONTRIBUTED

It makes sense a senior would look forward to the start of his final season.

But Father Judge High School senior Matt Kidwell was probably a little more excited than most. The 160-pound wrestler entered the winter season with 99 career victories.

Just one away from the huge 100-win milestone.

He didn’t wait long to get it.

Kidwell picked up the win in his first match of the season at the Upper Merion duals on Saturday. He didn’t sit on 100 nearly as long as he was stuck on 99. He went on to win more matches as the Crusaders went 2-1 on the day, giving both Judge and Kidwell a good start to the season.

“It wasn’t too bad, I didn’t worry I would get it, but it feels really good to get it,” said Kidwell, who now sits at 102-39 for his career. “I think my mom was more worried than I was, my parents are really supportive.

“It was good to do it here because they announced it at the meet and there were a lot of people there. My mom had a sign, and everyone cheered. It was good to do it today. Now I can focus on the season.”

Kidwell has big plans for the season, but he isn’t too worried about how he does as an individual.

Sure, he wants to make some noise at the state level, defend his Catholic League individual championship and hopefully bring home a district and regional crown, but right now his immediate goal is to make sure the Crusaders are the best team they can be.

Judge has had plenty of success during Kidwell’s three years. The Crusaders won the championship during his freshman season and did it again when he was a junior last season. They did fall short of the goal his sophomore year, and that’s not something Kidwell hopes to relive.

“I felt so bad for the seniors that year because our goal is to always win the championship,” Kidwell said. “We always try to work harder than everyone else, we put a lot in because our coach puts so much in. I think if we do that, we can win every year. Wrestling is a lot about hard work.”

Kidwell has high praise for his coach Jim Savage. He’s been wrestling for him long before he showed up at Judge.

When he was a kid, Kidwell wrestled under Savage at the North Catholic junior program and he loved the experience. It also helped him by the time he got to high school. He estimates he started wrestling when he was about 5 years old.

“I’ve learned so much from Sav,” said Kidwell, who lives by Archbishop Ryan. “I have him for AP calculus, too, and he’s a great teacher. He definitely works us hard, but he always has us ready to wrestle.”

As strong as he is on the mat, Kidwell may be an even better student.

He ranks in the top 10 percent of his senior class despite taking challenging advanced-placement courses, and those grades will greatly serve him when he takes the next step of wrestling in college.

He’s unsure where he’ll end up, but he’s currently looking at Ursinus and Bucknell. He is sure he wants to wrestle.

“I’m looking to study business, not sure about it, but that’s what I’m thinking,” Kidwell said. “My dad is in business and he likes it. I do well in math in school, too. I’m not really sure, you can study business and then figure it out. Maybe accounting? I’ll have to see when I get in there and see what I like.”

Kidwell is in no rush to pick a school or a major, but he is happy it’s wrestling season. And he’s ready to get started.

The Crusaders did lose some talented seniors, and many of those who departed were great leaders. Kidwell is ready to take on that role.

“I’m pretty excited about being a leader and helping the other guys, the younger guys who are just getting started,” Kidwell said. “We had really good seniors who did so much for us last year. I think we have three seniors this year who are going to do the same thing. I think the captains learned so much from last year’s captains, and really all of the captains during my time here, so we’re ready.

“I like helping the younger guys. I know I had a lot of help, and it made a big difference. If you have someone helping you with things, it makes it easier.”

Judge has more tournaments and dual meets before the Catholic League schedule begins early next year, so Kidwell hopes the team uses this time to get better.

He’ll be totally focused since he has no milestones to worry about.

“It’s good to have it done because you do think about it,” Kidwell said. “I had some trouble sleeping (Friday) night, but we had to be up really early, so that was good. Then I did it right away, I got it, and it’s over. Now I’m just going to go out and wrestle and see what we can do. We’re looking to win it all again.”

And at least this time he won’t have to wait nine months for it to happen.