OWNING THE MAT: The Making of A State Champ or At Least A Good Man! (Blog 11)

Owning the Mat Blog 11

Week 11


This week began with some bizarre injuries. We had nine wrestlers at both of our Monday and Tuesday night practices. However, Monday night’s injuries made it difficult for some of us, including myself, to do much on Tuesday night.

Monday at practice, our 160-pounder reaggravated his rib injury. Our 126-pounder had a big bump on his wrist and arm that none of us could seem to explain. Another wrestler moved to the side and grabbed a bag of ice for something else that hurt. Also, my right pinkie hand finger twisted and bent somehow. And no matter how hard I tried to turn it and bend it back, it just wouldn’t cooperate and go back into the correct position. Now my hand is wrapped up, and I’m waiting to get an appointment with a hand specialist sometime next week.

On Tuesday, a few more kids came into practice telling me they got hurt the day before and couldn’t do much for that practice. I pulled the team in and announced that when they get hurt, they need to tell us coaches right away so we can try to do something about it. Dakota then made a joke that he was hurt all over. We all laughed, but we all also knew that he was telling the truth, and there really wasn’t much we could do for him. Dakota is just going to have to suck it up and get through the state tournament. After states, he can rest and heal.

All of our home matches were at the beginning of the season. So, we’re trying to put together a meet for Saturday to have a Senior Day to honor our wrestlers who will be graduating. So far, we have been unsuccessful. Hopefully, something works out this week. Our kids have had a lot of meets canceled due to Covid, and now they may not have a Senior Day/Night as well.

It’s looking more and more like Wednesday night against Windsor may be our last regular season meet. There are still no takers for Saturday to have a Senior Appreciation Day. We boarded ten wrestlers and a wrestling manager onto the 4:00 P.M. bus Wednesday night for Windsor. I told Coach Corrente that I believe this is the biggest team we’ve had so far. He looked back at the kids and smiled.

Windsor’s meet went well. My sister, Rosie, who works in Windsor, came to watch Dakota wrestle. The night’s matches started off at 152-pounds, which should have been Dakota. But, it wasn’t because we bumped up a good part of our team to the next weight class. So, our 145-pounder wrestled the first match of the night at the 152-pound weight class.

Our boy wrestled tough, and it was a very exciting match. He had the Windsor boy gasping for air and just trying to survive out there against him. Sadly, the match ended with our boy being one point short and thus the loser. Later that night, when my sister came out of the stands, she informed me how the coaches missed a two-point move that our kid did and didn’t get the points for. Later that night, at home, Coach Rogers went back and watched the video and saw what my sister saw. Our boy was robbed out of two points that, for some reason, didn’t get recorded. He should have won that match. I can’t believe that all three of us coaches missed that one. We feel terrible that we didn’t protect our boy from being robbed of a win he had earned.

Dakota came up next. He wrestled up at the 160-pound weight class, dominating his opponent. Dakota was never in any trouble and beat the kid 11-0. I don’t think the kid ever came close to scoring. But, the boy did stall, similar to the Windsor kid from the previous match. Our wrestlers were definitely in better shape than the Windsor kids were.

The 170-pound match was pretty cool. We bumped our 160-pounder up to 170. There, he went against a female opponent from Windsor who was a four-year wrestler and the captain of their team. This was the first time in my life that I’ve ever seen a female wrestling captain. So, this was pretty cool, and I much admired her. And I told her so when she came over to shake hands with me. Later, my sister told me that she was rooting for the girl and was sad when our boy beat her. You see, my sister wanted to wrestle back in the late 80s, but East Hartford coach Steve Konopka wouldn’t allow it. So, she had to settle on being the wrestling manager instead.

Some of the matches that followed were good, and a few weren’t so good for us. However, our team wrestled well enough to pull off a comfortable win and was never in trouble of losing. The bus ride home was a joyous one. We had won. We won convincingly, and we were all happy about it.

However, still no luck on getting anyone to wrestle us on the upcoming Saturday. I feel bad for our seniors. They won’t have a Senior Day this year. Hopefully, we can make up for it at our end-of-the-season wrestling celebration.

Without a meet on Saturday, we went a little easier in practice on Thursday. I showed some techniques in a few areas that I noticed need improvement. Our boys have been dropping their knee to the mat during scrambles and even sprawls and giving up two points that they shouldn’t be giving up. We also mixed up the workout by hitting the weight room and getting the boys out of practice on time. I’m sure parents waiting in the parking lot were happy about this last one.

Since we didn’t have a meet on Saturday and my oldest daughter needed to be up at Logan Airport in Boston at the same time we practice on Friday, Dakota and I did something we hadn’t done yet this season. We both took the night off, with the blessings of the other coaches and the team, to go to Boston’s airport. My oldest daughter is going to South Korea for a semester abroad. I couldn’t be more proud of her. And I was happy that wrestling worked out in a way that allowed both Dakota and I to be there when she boarded her plane to leave us for the next five months.

We miss her already. And now Dakota’s high school wrestling career is nearing an end too. And I’m pretty sure that eventually, we’re going to miss all this craziness and hardship that wrestling has brought us over the last four years. But, in the meantime, here come the post-season wrestling tournaments. And now we have to get ready for them. But first, I need to shovel our 460-foot dirt driveway out again from another snowstorm in time to watch the Super Bowl LVI.