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Wrestling has strong season but struggles to match past success

ZEKE SANGER, Staff Writer

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Photo by Edison Byrd
The wrestling team goes in for a huddle at one of their matches. The team finished the season with a 15-5 record. Their last match was on February 8 against Berlin High School.

Currently 13-6, the boys are starting the season off strong. With eleven new varsity wrestlers in the starting lineup and the loss of Jordan Baker, class of 2016, who was second in the state last year, the team is being meet with many challenges.
“[This season] is a completely different animal,” said Coach Mark Fong. With eleven new starting varsity members, the team has undergone many changes. “A lot of kids who wrestle now would have wrestled junior varsity last year due to their lack of experience.” With the loss of many seniors and the incoming of new freshman into the sport, the team has had to adjust accordingly.
Captain Tom Gatti said, “Last year we were polishing the team, but this year is about building the foundation for the next few years.” Instead of building upon skills, the practices this year consist of more teaching and the breaking down of moves.
With new wrestlers come new challenges. For many of the new wrestlers, wrestling is has not yet become a passion; many newcomers don’t devote as much time and energy as is expected. This can be very challenging considering a change of diet and the engaging of intense practices are necessary to do well in the sport.
Not coming to practice fully prepared to work hard can hurt everyone on the team. Gatti said, “The thought of slacking never came to mind when wrestling with guys who wrestled last year. When I slacked off last year, I felt I was cheating myself and my teammate.” When wrestlers are not diligent at practice, the team will not succeed in improving.
Captain Noah Sylvester said, “Being captain you really have to be a leader, you have to step up and influence everyone else to strive towards their best. If they don’t strive towards their best then they’re really not going to get better.” Last year, Baker, finishing the season undefeated and placing second in states, led the team to success. As a role model to the other wrestlers, the team was impacted tremendously.
Fong said, “We miss all the seniors and the leadership they had. They always wanted to work hard and the younger kids we have now don’t always know what it takes and shy away from the hard work sometimes.” As the season continues and states approaches, leadership will be crucial.
As of now, the team’s goal is to win conference and to have three championships at states. With the team suffering many injuries and skin conditions, the team is doing their best to prepare. As he has in the past, Fong continues to increase the intensity at practice as the season progresses.
Gatti said, “I think coach needs to monitor everyone’s injuries a little bit better. As we step up the intensity at practice we risk getting re injured.” Tom Gatti, currently recovering from an injury, is hoping to finish off the season injury-free while also achieving his one-hundredth win in the ring. The team is also missing senior Asim Waters who is currently sidelined, suffering from an injured shoulder.
The boys defeated Berlin in their last home match at Keigwin Middle School on February 8 by a score of 51-23.

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Wrestling has strong season but struggles to match past success