Max Sullivan comes from a family of fighters that stretches back beyond the Great Depression.
The Cherry Hill West junior heavyweight great-great-grandfather, Tommy Loughran, was the world light heavyweight champion from 1927-29. Sullivan’s father, John Sullivan, boxed in the Navy and won the Bermuda light heavyweight championship in 1982. He also wrestled heavyweight at Camden County Technical School.
“He usually tells me how to deal with the fat kids,” Sullivan said of his father.
Now, Sullivan has an 18-1 record. The lone loss came Wednesday to Lenape sophomore Jared Davenport, 4-1.
But getting to this point wasn’t easy.
During a practice in December 2016, Sullivan’s left shoulder was separated when he was slammed on his back and landed awkwardly. The injury required Sullivan to undergo physical therapy and to sit out a good chunk of his sophomore season.
The following spring, Sullivan practiced at Diamond Mixed Martial Arts, his uncle’s gym at 17th Street and Washington Avenue in Philadelphia.
Sullivan also joined the New Jersey Cadet wrestling team, with which he practiced Greco-Roman — a style of wrestling that forbids holds below the waist — as well as freestyle. He competed with the New Jersey Cadets last spring at the National Duals in York, Pa., where they placed eighth.
“That was just beneficial in learning leverage and being able to throw guys and everything like that,” Cherry Hill West coach Zach Semar said. “I think that’s helped him as he’s transitioned to wrestling really big kids.”
Despite starting the season with 18 victories, Sullivan remains humble in his approach by taking every match one at a time.
But as he practices, he sees on the gray wall of the school’s Jones Gym the names of recent Lions stars James Potts and Connor Rogovich, who each wrestle at Kutztown University. Each name has the year of the wrestler’s graduation and his number of career pins.
And Sullivan hopes to be in that same category at Cherry Hill West after his career.
“Those are the guys that were three-time varsity starters, studs in the room,” Sullivan said. “Those are the guys that come back and beat us up. When you graduate, you want to be like them.”