HITTING THE MAT: The Making of A State Champ or At Least A Good Man! (Blog 36)

Blog 36

Week 11 Regular Sophomore Season

Well, it’s getting into the second week of February, and wrestling season is winding down. Monday and Tuesday’s practices were pretty typical. The wrestlers did a bunch of spinning, some drilling, some stretching, and then some live wrestling. Then they did some more spinning followed by sprints to finish off the practice. Dakota was also once again back up on the bike doing his own kind of spinning.

Tuesday night, Dakota and I talked about off-season wrestling when the practice was over. I told him that he had three or four weeks to do his physical therapy exercises religiously. Dakota needed to get his knee ready for the off-season, or he’ll miss that too. He can’t afford to miss the off-season if he wants to be a state champ before he graduates in just two short years from now. Hopefully, he’ll be ready to wrestle this spring, and it will at least somewhat make up for this missed sophomore season of wrestling.

On the car ride home, while talking about off-season wrestling, Dakota and I had an enthusiastic conversation about wrestling again, like the ones we used to have last year and at the beginning of this year. Sadly, lately, the car rides home have been low key. We haven’t had a ton to talk about this season since he hasn’t been wrestling. But now that we’re looking at the off-season wrestling again, we had a great conversation, and Dakota seemed invigorated again like there was hope again. It looks like there is a chance of light at the end of the tunnel again through Plan B.

Hopefully, Dakota can get his knee healthy over the next several weeks. We’re crossing our fingers. And now we’re determined to get ready for tomorrow night’s home match against Windsor High School. It’s our last home match of the season and our big Senior Night.

Wednesday night is here, and Senior Night was pretty cool. Our female wrestling managers decorated the gym, and some extra wrestling fans showed up to honor our lone senior wrestler, our 138-pound captain, Quin. Quin is Coach Rogers’ son. Coach and his wife, Valerie, escorted Quin to the center of the wrestling mat where Coach Torres and I were waiting to greet them. I shook Quin’s hand, then Coach Rogers’, and then handed Valerie a bunch of flowers accompanied with a hug. Coach Torres did the same and told Quin that he really is going to miss him after he graduates, and how he better come back to visit.

After a long applause, Valerie broke off toward the head table. She grabbed the microphone to sing our country’s National Anthem. She sang beautifully and then the wrestling meet began. It was a great night of wrestling. Coach Torres bumped Quin up to the 145-pound class where Quin pinned his opponent and helped us win the meet by one point. When the Windsor boy came over after to shake our coaches’ hands, he told Coach Rogers that his son is a BEAST!

It was a pretty exciting night, and everyone seemed to be in good spirits, even Dakota, who once again could only watch from the team bench. Later on, I found out that Dakota had some candy in his pocket and that he had been discreetly snacking on it all night. I guess he’s taking advantage of not having to make weight for a while. But, that will be short-lived if we can get his knee back in shape for off-season wrestling.

Dakota and his mom saw his doctor again on Thursday. His doctor told Dakota that the knee is coming along well and that the puffiness is not unexpected. When he was doing the drilling, even though it was light, his knee was yelling out, “What the heck is this? I’m not used to this”, which caused fluid to run to his knee, which caused it to swell and hurt again. And when he bends his knee, he’s to picture a balloon being squeezed. Just like a balloon being squeezed, when Dakota bends his knee, he pushing some of the fluid out of the front of his knee. This forces the fluid to the sides and back of his knee. Now, the extra fluid there is what is causing him to be unable to bend his knee all the way.

The good news is that the doctor didn’t seem overly concerned. He told Dakota to keep riding the bike, but go even harder to build up the muscles in his thighs and around his knee. And then to put on his compression sleeve and ice it every night. Eventually, the swelling will go back down and the knee should be okay. Let’s keep praying, though, anyway… just in case…

After Dakota filled me in on his doctor visit, I gave him a hug good night. As a budding wrestler, he couldn’t help himself, he gained inside control and gave me a big bear hug. I playfully backed out my hips some as a wrestler does, and then Dakota really started squeezing. That’s when I heard a funny noise come from my rib and felt a shooting pain. I urged Dakota with a bunch of quick pats on his back to let go, but it was already too late, the damage had been done. I’m sure I have at least a bruised rib that is aching every time I cough. I wonder how many days I’m going to have to live with this discomfort. And I’m also wondering why the heck my rib bruised so easily. Well, I guess at 50-years old, I’m not used to wrestlers squeezing the life out of my ribs anymore, so maybe that’s why it damaged so easily.

Friday morning, Valentine’s Day, I woke up feeling terrible. I now have a full-blown cold. It’s causing me to cough non-stop, and my rib is jumping out in pain with each cough. The ironic thing is that Dakota was at the doctor’s yesterday, and he is going to physical therapy today. Now and I feel like maybe I should be going to the doctor and physical therapist right alongside Dakota.

Dan Gable Olympic Gold Medalist and Wrestler of the Century

I emailed the great Dan Gable today, to ask him a question about wrestlers and sickness. When I was a wrestler and a young coach, we didn’t want our wrestlers in the wrestling room if they were sick because they’d get other wrestlers sick. And trying to wrestle while sick is a total nightmare. However, today, some coaches out there coach under the philosophy that one can sweat the germs out of their body, so they should be at practice and wrestling with their teammates.

Dan Gable was more in tune with my philosophy of not getting your teammates sick. If you really want to be there and do some sweating, then ride the bike, but don’t do physical contact with the other wrestlers. I also remember how I used to take the day off from physical activity when I was sick and just sit in the steam room to sweat some of it out of me. Then I’d go home to bed.

Well, today, as a coach, I’m sick like several of our wrestlers are too on this Friday, but, I will be coaching from afar today from off the side of the wrestling mat. Nobody needs my germs. Luckily, Dakota’s health is good. He shows no signs of this nasty cold that is going through our team. Friday’s practice was good, but very difficult on our boys that were a little bit under the weather.

Saturday, we had a very good day at the CCC Divisional Tournament over at Bristol Central High School. Fourteen teams showed up, and we had a long, good day of wrestling. Our 138-pound senior captain took first. And so did our 170-pound junior. They are both now CCC Champs. Our 126-pound junior took 4th, and so did our 160-pound sophomore. Finally, our 113-pound sophomore took 5th. It was a good showing in a big challenging tournament. Once again, I can’t help but wonder how Dakota would have done. Oh, well, I guess we’ll have to wait until next year to find out.

While at the tournament, I ran into one of my old Junior Olympic teammates from back in the mid-80s. I was walking past mat one when someone up in the stands yelled my name. I looked up and saw the nearly 50-year old version of my old buddy and teammate, Andy Torres. We had a great talk catching up. And when I asked him who he was here to see, he just smiled and said he needed a little dose of wrestling today, so he came to watch on a whim. I smiled and told him that my old buddy Tom Berry had said something similar a few weeks ago when I bumped into him. Boy, there really is something about wrestling…

Now… let’s see what next week brings. It should be an exciting one. For most of our wrestlers, the season will end this weekend at the Class “L” State Tournament right back at Bristol Central High School. Only time will tell how this is all going to unfold. Who will step up? Who will not? Who will be sick or hurt? Who will beat the odds and amaze us all?


Learn more about Dan’s book, A Sprint to the Top, that DAN GABLE endorsed:


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*** Finally, check out the very 1st blog of, Hitting the Mat: https://tinyurl.com/w68ubf8

Dan Gable Olympic Gold Medalist and Wrestler of the Century


Dan Blanchard, Teen Leadership, The Storm

Dan Blanchard is a best-selling author, and award-winning speaker,
and educator. www.DanBlanchard.net