I was not a happy camper when the alarm on my phone shook me awake on Sunday (October 20) at 3:59 AM in order to catch the first shuttle to the airport from the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Why did I have to leave so early? Well, this is what happens when you only check the time your flight lands in Richmond without seeing when your first flight leaves! When I set up this trip to the OTC, I wanted to make sure I got back to Richmond at a decent hour, so I picked the return flight that landed at 2:55 pm. Little did I know my flight out of Colorado would leave at 6 AM! But after a cup of coffee and a Red Bull, I was more or less awake. What was I doing at the Olympic Training Center?
Back in September I received a phone call from the Virginia Wrestling Association (VAWA) State Chairman Bill Swink, asking me if I was interested in attending USA Wrestling's Fall Coaches Clinic at the OTC....uh yeah!!! Of course I was interested. Who wouldn't be? An opportunity to learn from the National Coaching Staff? You bet! So I planned the trip and set out for Colorado on Thursday, October 17th for two days of learning and networking.
After a day filled with running through airports and final flight on a turbo-prop puddle hopper I finally arrived at the Olympic Trianing Center. In all of my years of competing and coaching I had never had the opportunity to go to the OTC, so I was very excited to see what it was all about. The staff at the OTC treats its resident athletes and visiting coaches like royalty! I really felt welcomed with open arms and excitement.
I was a little surprised to wake up Friday morning with a dusting of snow on the ground! I mean, it's October; there shouldn't be snow on the ground!!! The first technique session kicked off Friday morning with Women's National Coach Terry Steiner. The fifty coaches in attendence were not quite sure how the workout would go, considering Steiner was a product of the University of Iowa and their brand of intensity. Some of us thought we would be working at a frantic pace, but fortunately that was not the case. Steiner spent his hour and a half focusing on freestyle ankle laces and the various positions wrestlers find themselves in when trying to use laces to turn. My partner was a high school coach from Arkansas- a state that had recently started wrestling. Only Mississippi is left without wrestling in high school.
In between technique sessions, the coaches sat through seminars that focused on how we can improve our programs through strength training, periodization, and planning. I was pleased to see that the issues we deal with in preparing our wrestlers in Virginia are similar to those others across the country face. Listening to successful high school and college coaches speak about how they utilize periodization to train for peak performance reinforced what we do at St. Christopher's as we prepare for the 2013-14 season.
While most of the coaches at the clinic were freestyle oriented, I was one of the few who were psyhed to spend an hour with 1984 Olympic Champion and National Greco Roman coach Steve Fraser and Momir Petkovic, a 1976 Olympic Champion from Yugoslavia and current US Developmental Coach for their Greco specific sessions on hand fighting, pumelling, and par terre defense. The cool thing about these two sessions was I shared some of the things I use in Greco with the other coaches. I think Fraser and Petkovic were impressed.
The main reason all of us met up in Colorado was to network with coaches with dynamic background to network and build relationships. I think one of the main reasons why wrestlers are so successful is how well we work together, sharing our knowledge and bonding. I was fortunate to meet a number of successful coaches who did not bring an ego to the clinic despite their success as athletes and as coaches. I think is what makes wrestling such a unique sport. Do I think basketball or football coaches would be able to do the same? Maybe, but I think they might be leery of each other, while wrestlers develop a tight bond and trust. I am looking forward to connecting with these guys throughout the season, especially next summer in Fargo.
Although the trip to the OTC was short, the experiences will last a lifetime. From the technique and ideas leared in the wrestling room to the friendships created, I enjoyed myself in Colorado. I am looking forward to receiving the DVDs of the weekend to break down the technique and to be reminded of Steve Fraser's front headlock with "something going on down there", Captain Knee-Pads and his 10,000 questions and 45 minutes of strapping up before practice (and never really getting involved in the wrestling), to my roommate who never left the OTC compound but woke up at 5 AM each day for reasons I do not know. If you ever get the opportunity to go to the Olympic Training Center- definitely take it! If you are interesting in viewing an interview I did with Gary Abbott, the Director of Communications for USA Wrestling, please click here.
Jesus points the way to the men's room at the Olympic Training Center Dining Hall...I thought this was funny!
July 23, 2013: Why Fargo?
It has been a few days since I returned from Fargo, ND where for the twelfth year (and eleventh in a row), I had the pleasure to coach the Virginia Wrestling Association (VAWA) freestyle and Greco Roman teams that competed in the USA Wrestling Cadet and Junior Nationals. Upon my return I began to wonder what is it about Fargo and Nationals that keep me coming back year in and year out.
With all certainty I can safely say it is not the bus ride from Charlottesville to Fargo! Who on earth would subject themselves to spending twenty-four hours on a bus where the air conditioning is predestined to crap out at some point on the trip, that has a DVD player that won't read half of the movies we brought, and where rule number one on the bus is NO number two? And it is definitely not staying in the dorms at North Dakota State University, a school that has exactly ONE air conditioned dorm on campus! Who on earth would want to spend a week in a cramped room, on a single mattress in 110 degree heat and the only thing to keep you “cool” is a $20 fan, and a roommate who snores worse than you? The reason I keep returning to Fargo is because of three keys: 1) the wrestling, 2) the camaraderie, and 3) the networking.
Fargo is all about wrestling; every year since the early 1990s the Cadet and Junior National freestyle and Greco Roman tournaments have been contested in the Fargo Dome. The city of Fargo was definitely smart to submit the winning bid to host the tournaments; the week is a boon to the economy of the area. I have been to a lot of big time tournaments, but nothing compares to the excitement and level of competition in Fargo. Where else will you see some of the nation's top and emerging talents compete against each other on twenty-three mats? I can not begin to tell you how many eventual NCAA champions and All-Americans, USA Wrestling World and Olympic Team members I watched over the years.
My main objective in Fargo is to coach Virginia's Cadet and Junior Greco teams. That coaching starts at training camp, instructing and drilling our kids in the mechanics and finer points of Greco Roman wrestling. When we arrive in Fargo it is time to fine tune and cut weight for the tournament. We hope that all of the kids are ready to roll. While some of our team members come out to Fargo solely for the purpose of trading and buying gear, most of the wrestlers want to prove themselves. Once the tournament begins, the wrestlers grind it out on the mats and I enjoy being there with them.
Fortunately this year three of our St. Christopher's wrestlers made the trip to Fargo- the most in a very long time for the Saints. And for one of our guys- Joey Prata, the trip was even more special. He became the first St. Christopher's wrestler to win a National Championship when he defeated Danny Vega of Arizona by tech fall in the 100 lb finals of the Cadet Greco Roman tournament. While I have been very lucky to have coached a number of Virginia's best Greco wrestlers, this year was even more special because I was right there on mat one with Joey when he won. As soon as he scored his last gut-wrench I jumped up on the mat and caught Joey in my arms to celebrate his win. This is the reason why I coach: to experience the joy of one of my wrestlers reaching their ultimate goal. I can not begin to tell you how happy I am for Joey Prata, his family, and St. Christopher's for all of his hard work! What a moment!
Wrestling is one of the top high school sports in the US, yet we often find ourselves in the backseat with sports like football, basketball, and baseball taking center stage. But we don't consider ourselves second class citizens; wrestling is like a fraternity- a closely knit community and Fargo is our Homecoming. The week in Fargo allows me to reconnect with many of my old friends, some of whom I have known since I began wrestling at age nine. We get to catch up on what is going on in our lives, tell and retell stories of our competitive days, and make new memories that we will cherish for another year.
Even the officials are a strong part of this camaraderie; there are still some of the old guard of officials who are still at it after all of these years which is really cool. Despite being long in the tooth, we can still learn a lot from these officials.
I love going to Fargo, knowing that I will see Ray Brinzer, Brandon Paulson, and others from my own wrestling career, as well as others whom I have gotten to know over the years, like the coaches from Georgia and Alabama and other states who share my passion for wrestling. And our fraternity house is often the Bison Turf- located right across the street from campus. Even the manager remembers the coaches from Virginia because of our stories and joy of being in Fargo. Everybody is really friendly in Fargo. From the ladies at the Red River Coffee Company, to the woman who slides our ID cards in the chow line in the dorms, there is a genuine niceness to the locals in Fargo that we are not used to.
Fargo is one of the few wrestling tournaments where just about everyone associated with wrestling comes to watch. From college coaches, to the media, and others- there are connections to be made in Fargo. Because of my friendship with Jason Bryant, a native Virginian who has turned his love of wrestling into a career as a journalist I have gotten to know the members of the media community. They look forward to seeing what I am going to do on mat one to get announcer Sandy Stevens' attention. And the guys from Flo Wrestling are awesome and have a great sense of humor too.
Just about every major college coach is in Fargo for the week to watch the emerging pool of talent from across the country. How cool was it to see Oklahoma State head coach John Smith stop what he was doing, run over to mat one to watch his son compete? During the Junior freestyle tournament you will see coaches from the Big 10, the EIWA, and elsewhere comparing notes and jockeying for position to get to know the wrestlers. And in the past, some kids earn scholarships based on their performance in the tournament.
Ah Fargo, what a week! You exhaust me with your early morning weigh ins, countless trips to Buffalo Wild Wings, and the search for the latest NDSU gear to bring home to Richmond. Yes, I am tired after a long week of wrestling, socializing, and networking but it was well worth the trip. Despite getting a cold on day two of Greco, I sucked it up and enjoyed the week in the Dome. Over the years, I have grown fond of making the journey to Fargo each summer just to see if this year's tournament will out do last year's.
Before I begin, I hope you like the new look to the website. Being a bit of a perfectionist who pays attention to detail, I find myself constantly wanting to tweak the look of the website, in hopes of the "perfect" look. I really like this new look, as do many people- including my father. Since my father was a college professor who published a lot of written work, I enthusiastically trust his opinion of all things written and designed. Thanks Dad! Now, back to your regularly scheduled blog!
Some people not associated with St. Christopher’s wrestling may consider the 2012-13 season a failure simply because “The Streak” of consecutive VISAA State titles ended. Yes, “The Streak” ended, but one tournament a season does not define. Life went on after the State tournament; we moved on and had a heck of a National Prep tournament. Despite the State tournament’s end, this wrestling season was very, very successful for the Saints. There were a lot of ups and downs throughout the year, but the journey from start to finish was exciting; one of the most enjoyable in my fifteen years as a coach.
Simply put, the kids got better and better each week. There was a core group of four or five wrestlers that we knew would be successful much of the time, but the younger and relatively inexperienced wrestlers improved each week. Coach Gordon preaches having faith in the system, meaning the technique that we teach is better than most of the schools in Virginia- public or private. The kids believed Coach Gordon and bought in to the hard work in practice. By the end of the season, we had fourteen pretty good wrestlers to put out on the mat that would give their heart and souls for the cause.
Robert Janis and Marshall Hollerith ended their careers on solid footing. Janis became just the third Saints wrestler to earn All-American status three times and place at States five times and ended his senior year fourth on the career victories list with 181 wins. And Hollerith finally won his first VISAA State title after placing second and third previously and placed at National Preps for the second year in a row. He won over 100 matches in three years, which is an impressive feat. These two wrestlers led by example in the way they prepared for matches and competed hard for six, seven, or eight minutes on the mat.
William Kelly continued improving each week. Heck, the kid wrestled the last third of the season with a broken knuckle and did not miss a beat. Despite being in a lot of pain and having a lack of grip, Kelly wrestled through it, showing just how tough he is. He wrestled very well at States, beating a tough Gabe Gibson from Cape Henry- a wrestler whom Kelly lost to four times in his career, in the finals for his second straight State title. And at Nationals, Kelly competed very hard and came home with his second All-American certificate. Good things will continue for William Kelly in the off season and next year.
And what about Joey Prata, the little freshman 106 lber? The kid is legit! Despite being “small” for his weight class, Prata used outstanding technique, quickness, and intensity to place at Nationals in his first year at St. Christopher’s. He’s only going to continue to get better and better each week. I cannot wait to see him wrestle next year as a “full-sized” 106.
Coping with injuries and adversity is something that the wrestling team has gotten used to. Ian Saunders missed the last month of the regular season because of torn meniscus in his knee, but had surgery to repair the tear and came back for the State tournament. He wasn’t in peak condition because of not being able to stay in wrestling shape with the injury, but battled as best he could and placed 6th at 170 showing a lot of guts in the process. There is no doubt in my mind had Saunders been healthy all season, he makes the State finals. And Mark Gottwald tore meniscus in his knee in his first match at States, but kept going. He upset the #7 seed in the round of 16 and ended up placing 8th at 160 lbs. Again, he showed guts and courage wrestling through pain.
Guys like Matt MacLeod, Cole Gayle, and John Fergusson stick in my mind as wrestlers who stepped up at the end of the season to help the cause. The coaches knew MacLeod had the talent to place at States, and it was this year that he believed he had the talent to place- and did. Gayle and Fergusson were both one round away from placing at States. Cole Gayle finally found technique that he liked (and was good with) and really worked hard the last half of the season. And Fergusson had a heck of a St. Albans Tournament, where he surprised many by placing 4th at 138 lbs. Not bad for a second year wrestler.
I do not believe a team is necessarily defined by tournament results. While results are important, I feel that how much progress the team and its individual wrestlers make throughout the season shows just how good a team is. And in our case, we got better and better each week. The commitment to excellence and attention to detail in the practice room, the difficult schedule we keep, and the desire to be the best we can be separates St. Christopher’s from many of the private school teams. We may not have won the 2013 VISAA State title to “The Streak” going, but set a new foundation for success.
St. Christopher’s is the place to be if you want to get an excellent education and outstanding wrestling program. That will not change. The coaches, wrestlers, and parents are committed to putting the best student-athletes on the mat each week. I for one am looking forward to the 2013-14 season where St. Christopher’s will be the hunter, instead of the hunted. We have something important to reclaim. Champions are made in the off season, so it is time to get back to work and continue to get better.
It's going to be a very busy off season. I am excited for the freestyle and Greco season to begin, as I get to coach the style I love: Greco. No time to waste; back to work in the trenches and lots of good things to work on!
This is the second attempt at posting my first blog entry since the end of last wrestling season. The first one vanished from the website and I broke cardinal rule number one of writing: saving the Word document, as in I forgot to save the original document. So, I am a little bummed that my first blog did not save or will appear on the website, but I promise you I saved this one as a Word document from the end of the first paragraph. Perhaps this was the gods of writing’s way of letting me know that what I originally wrote was not very good. Nevertheless, I will start over from scratch.
First, I want to apologize for not composing a new blog entry until now. I have been incredibly busy since March with professional and personal obligations that have kept me away from writing. Not that I was away from my computer, since I have to use it every day at work. But I began a Master’s program in sports psychology in January, 2012 and much of my free time has gone into my studies. I am hopeful to eventually parlay the Master’s degree into a Certified Consultant with the American Association of Applied Sports Psychology. It’s going to take some extra work, and probably a few rigorous tests, but I am up for the challenge.
Okay, now on to more important things…the beginning of the 2012-13 wrestling season. We want to pick up where we left off at the end of my last blog- continuing the tradition of success at the state and national level. We have over thirty outstanding young men working hard in the wrestling room every day, focusing on improving their skills and taking the next step in their progression.
I have been a part of the St. Christopher’s wrestling tradition for the past five years and have seen how much the program has grown, in terms of success, development, teamwork, and unity. To watch our guys drill in practice most days mirrors what a college wrestling room looks like. The pace and activity during drill periods brings a smile to my face. Granted, the coaches are always finding little things for each wrestler to fix during drilling, but the intensity is there.
Attention to detail with all of our wrestling is something that as a head coach I prided myself on and I see the same going on here at St. Christopher’s. It’s impressive to see all of our guys working on the potent near wrist ride Coach Gitomer brought with him from Blair Academy and the impact it had on the team last year. We won the VISAA State championship last year with the near wrist ride. Freshman John Fergusson pinned three opponents in the tournament using the ride. Consistency in technique and terminology makes it easy to coach our kids from mat-side. I know I am a better wrestling coach after spending the last two years with my mentor Coach Gordon. He has taught me more about what a good coach is and should be, in terms of how we act, how we coach from mat-side, to how we talk to our wrestlers after matches. I have not lost my voice at a tournament in two years! I no longer yell and yell and yell during matches. I am actually pretty relaxed and quiet in all respects these days. Older and wiser I suppose.
We hear Coach Gordon talk of being sure we all wear “Saints Gear” before every event, as in all of the wrestlers should wear Saints wrestling gear. The Saints brand has increased tenfold since he became the Athletic Director. I for one love how all of the coaches wear the same color pants and coaching shirt to each event. I take pride in looking professional when I coach and it rings true when you see the other high school coaches who wear whatever they want and look like they came off the farm. We also have a great Sports Information Director in Stephen Lewis who has also increased the visibility of our athletic programs- not just wrestling. Our wrestlers take pride in their appearance; Saints wrestling teams look great when they are warming up for competition. And their wrestling backs up how good they look too.
The practice room has been an enthusiastic environment between coaches and athletes, one can sense the desire to improve and get better every day. The coaches challenge the wrestlers to get just a little better each day and it shows when we compete. Each day ends when we come together as a unit to reflect on practice and remind ourselves why we work so hard- together. Even though wrestling is an individual sport, the unity the team share is amazing. I love watching the tired eyes focused on Coach Gordon or Coach Gitomer, hanging on each word, each revelation, and each tidbit to remind them why we work so hard.
It’s a great time to a Saint! I am so proud of what the program has accomplished in the five years I have been associated with it, but words cannot express how excited I am to see where we are going. We have returning All-Americans in the line up- from both National Prep and USA Wrestling. We have Beast of the East place winners and now a Walsh Ironman place winner in our lineup. We have first year starters in the lineup who are good enough to place and/or win VISAA State titles this year. The excitement for the 2012-13 season is electric. The team is incredibly dynamic; the coaches as diverse as they get. Despite our differing personalities, ideas of what techniques work best, and motivational techniques, we all have the same goal(s) in mind: putting the best wrestlers out on the mat every week, no matter the event. We want our middle school and sub-varsity wrestlers to go hard every time they step foot on the mat. It shouldn’t be any other way.
Now back to your regularly scheduled program…
Oh- I forgot: be sure to follow me on Twitter to stay up to date on the latest with St. Christopher’s wrestling! @CoachPrebes is my Twitter.
And after re-reading (and saving) this version of my blog- I like this one better than my original draft. I hope you enjoy it too!
What a great end to a great season! Another Prep League and State title to put in the trophy case. And we nearly cracked the top ten at Nationals this year...only one or two matches separated us from 10th place! It’s amazing to see just how fast the high school wrestling season goes. It seems as if it were yesterday that the team was working out twice a week after SAC, here we are now in March- season complete. I was so impressed with how well the wrestlers developed throughout the season. The freshmen, many of whom did not have much experience before this year, made huge gains in their skill sets. The veterans continued to build on the foundation that was set last year when Coach Gordon joined the family with help from newly hired assistant coach Ross Gitomer.
This was my fourth season working with St. Christopher’s, so I have been around to watch just how much the seniors have grown since they started high school. I am so proud and impressed with their development. Quent Alcorn for example, was stuck behind some of the best wrestlers in recent memory for his first two years, then goes out and wins back to back VISAA State championships as a junior and senior. He stayed persistent and focused and made the most out of his time at St. Christopher’s. And how about Hunter Daniels this year? He came into his own with a funky, high scoring, defensive offense, and a lethal cradle series. Hunter had some of the highest scoring matches of the season. Although he did not attend St. Christopher’s as a freshman, Tyler Cornett was a huge success story. The kid lost his entire junior year because of a broken elbow, comes back as a senior and nearly places at Nationals.
Let’s talk about the State tournament. It took nothing less than a total team effort for us to pull out number 11 in a row. I’ve been involved in wrestling for thirty years and have never seen a State tournament closer. Seven points separated first from third place- a mere 2.5 points between first and second! If Cape Henry wins ONE more match by a pin in the tournament, they take home the team trophy. We didn’t have the tournament sealed up until Quent Alcorn won his finals match at 195 lbs! If you are able to find any pictures of the coaching staff taken at the State tournament, you will more than likely see my face buried in my notepad, madly figuring out the point differential between us, Cape Henry, and Liberty Christian. As nerve racking as the tournament was, it was definitely sweet to keep the streak going.
The three champions: William Kelly (106), Robert Janis (145), and Quent Alcorn (195) won in such a commanding fashion and wrestled with poise and determination. It was especially neat to see William Kelly improve throughout the season to wrestle with so much confidence at States. The rest of the team wrestled with passion and resolve mostly from the training and strength of our schedule. Every time a St. Christopher’s wrestler stepped foot on the mat, they expected to win. They were not being cocky, just confident with their ability and belief in the system Coach Gordon teaches. My vote for team MVP at States has to go to freshman John Fergusson (126). The kid got cut from the basketball team and wanted to participate in a winter sport, so he comes out for wrestling. He wins three matches at State- all by pin to contribute ten team points to the cause. From watching John in practice and in matches, I knew that if we put him on top, he would immediately go to Coach Gitomer’s near-wrist ride and score some big points. Coach Sica thought I was crazy for putting him on top in his first match, instead of going on bottom or neutral. But when John turned his opponent over and over, Sica understood why we made the choice to go top.
And what about Nationals? We came home with three All-Americans, all of whom will return for the 2012-13 season, and two others who reached the top 12 (one round away from placing). The trip to Lehigh opened a lot of eyes, and not just those of our younger wrestlers, but those of many coaches and fans who know and love wrestling. They were impressed with how aggressive our wrestlers were and how they pushed the pace and were in better shape than most of their opponents. Coach Gordon developed the program at Wyoming Seminary under the same circumstances and turned them into a nationally respected program. The same will happen here at St. Christopher’s. After spending the past two years with Coach Gordon, I see what he does with the kids, and it’s only going to get better for the Saints.
Now is not the time for us to rest on our laurels and pat ourselves on the back for a good season. We need to get back on the mats and begin training for the 2012-13 season. Our wrestlers need to train and compete in the off season, not because it is fun (well, freestyle and Greco Roman is fun), but because there are teams in the state looking to take what is rightfully ours: the big VISAA State Championship trophy. Get back into the practice room and back to business.
Raise a glass to toast another successful wrestling season, but be ready to strap on the wrestling shoes for the next workout. Thanks again for another wonderful season on the mats. I am already looking forward to the opening of the 2012-13 wrestling season.
One of the highlights of the wrestling season for me is running the St. Chrstopher's Invitational tournament each December. Being the coaching staff's resident "computer nerd", I am in charge of organizing, seeding, entering, and tracking the entire tournament meaning I spend the day of the St. Christopher's Invitational sitting in the Athletics Office staring at a computer screen, entering results, printing bout sheets, and making sure that the event runs smoothly and efficiently. I tend to develop a case of OCD in the weeks leading up to the tournament, wanting to make sure that everything goes the way it should.
I pride myself on running a quick event, not wanting to keep the teams in Richmond all day and night. For Franklin County, McDonough, Granby, and Brookville, travel is a concern. They come from great distance to wrestle in our event and I try to get them on their way as fast as possible. Most ten team tournaments begin the final round between 5-6 PM, but for the third year in a row, we were completely finished with the event before 6! As soon as I can print out the next round's bout sheets, we continue wrestling. And I think that the officials appreciate this too; they're not stuck in a hot gym, getting yelled at by fans and coaches alike all day and get to go home at a decent hour.
Such was the case with this year's event. We started shortly after the scheduled 8:30 AM pigtail round and had all of the mats rolled up and put back in the wrestling gym by 6:30 PM. Minus two minor glitches when I didn't print out the correct bout sheets, I did not run into any major problems. That is, until I moved upstairs to Scott Gymnasium to sit in for the finals. My wee little notebook computer did not want to cooperate and pick up St. Christopher's wireless network, which could have led to complete disaster, since data entry was still important at this time to update team scores and individual results. Fortunately, my Samsung Infuse smartphone picked up (and kept) St. Christopher's guest wireless connection, so I figured I could run the final round of the tournament from my phone. It's amazing to see how technology has improved over the years! Had I been able to figure out how to print bout sheets and tournament brackets wirelessly from my phone, I could have run the entire event from the Infuse. Yes- imagine running a wrestling tournament from a cell phone! Pretty crazy stuff!
The kids wrestled really well- from all of the starters and place winners, to the younger, B team guys. Everyone stepped out on to the mat to compete hard. We're getting better each week in practice and it shows when we compete on the weekends. Carrington Lanier is getting better each week; he's finding his style at 170 and will definitely be a factor at the end of the season. And how about William Cabell? His opponents look at him and do not realize that for his thin frame, the kid is strong! Cabell looked very tough finishing in 3rd place at 138 and will surprise a lot of coaches and wrestlers throughout the season with his strength and hard wrestling. Tyler Anthony is looking better and better at 285 each week. He's gaining a lot of confidence and finding a style that suits him wrestling the big boys! I can't forget out three STC Invite champions: William Kelly (106), Andy Pitts (126), and Robert Janis (145). They wrestled with tremendous poise and confidence at the tournament.
Just when people begin to think that our reign of State championships may come to an end, our wrestlers continue to prove why we hope to continue the string. With their hard work in the practice room and guidance from our outstanding coaches, every wrestler continues to improve! I'm not just talking about the starers, but the entire team! There is really no separation between varsity and JV at St. Christopher's. Every member of the team has a stake in this thing and the coaches work with everybody to maximize their potential. The young guys are the future of the program; their development is crucial to their success and the team's success. We're not nearly where we want to be for the end of the season, but after all, this is only the end of the second week of competition. I am looking forward to seeing where this will go!
Thanks to all of the families present and past for coming out to watch and help out at the tournament. We can't run a quality wrestling event without their love and support. Stay tuned for more great things to come with St. Christopher's wrestling. Now for some much needed rest...at least until tomorrow when we get back on the mats for practice.
Here we are again, at the cusp of yet another wrestling season at St. Christopher's and as usual I find myself excited for the first day of practice arrive. The coaches and team had a busy summer working out, attending camp, and getting prepared to make a run for our unprecedented 11th VISAA State and Virginia Prep League titles in a row. It won't be easy, but the team is up for the challenge.
All of us involved with the St. Christopher's program is excited to welcome the latest addition to the coaching staff, former University of Virginia (and Blair Academy) standout Ross Gitomer. Ross was a two-time NCAA qualifier for the Cavaliers at 125 lbs. and brings a wealth of experience and enthusiasm to the team. He is a very dynamic personality and fits right in to the mission of both the wrestling program and the school. Ross will be teaching math during the day and preparing the kids for battle in the afternoon.
Coach Gordon and Sica took a group of Saints grapplers to Ohio in July for Jeff Jordan's team camp, which is arguably one of the best in the country. The kids held their own and earned a lot of compliments from the staff and coaches involved in the camp. They all survived the dreaded midwestern heat and rapid fire pace of drilling and valiently battled against some of the country's best young wrestlers at night. This goes to show that through proper preparation, anything can be accomplished.
Since returning from camp, the team gathered twice a week to keep in shape and drill for a short time. It was great to see our younger wrestlers at these workouts, getting into mix with the more experienced wrestlers. They are going to be the future of the program, and the future is looking good. Of course, there is much work to be done and goals to be set for all of our guys, but I firmly believe that they are up to the challenge.
The summer was busy for myself, spending time at the various Virginia Wrestling Association (VAWA) training camps working on Greco technique, the Cadet National Duals in Florida, and as usual- the trip to Fargo for the Cadet and Junior Nationals. 2011 marked my 10th trip out to Fargo and as always made for an excellent week of wrestling. Our Virginia kids did really well in the tournament; we are right on the edge of placing in the top ten each year in Greco. That of course, is my ultimate goal. We have the talent in our state to compete effectively at the National level in Greco; I would like to see more of our talented folkstyle wrestlers make the jump to Greco and see how far they can go. That being said, I am working on improving our Greco training program and hope to get more of our St. Christopher's wrestlers involved.
The 2011-12 schedule looks to be as challenging as last year's with stops at the Beast of the East, the McDonough Duals, the Virginia Duals, and the Christiansburg Big Blue tournament, as well as a one on one dual meet with Liberty Christian! Mark your calendars for February 7th, as the Bulldogs will come to town for a Senior Night battle for VISAA bragging rights. The Saints will be battle tested and ready so come on out and support your St. Christopher's wrestling team!
While working at a Virginia Wrestling Association (VAWA) mini-camp at Colonial Forge High School over the weekend, I heard from one of the other coaches about the rumor floating around about a highly decorated Greco-Roman wrestler suddenly passing away. He wasn't sure about the story and didn't want to speculate. With that news weighing on our minds, we muddled through the last practice of the day and went home for the night. That's when the story was confirmed, former World medalist Lindsey Durlacher passed away Saturday morning June 4th. He was 36 years old.
Okay, so why am I talking about Lindsey Durlacher? Who is Lindsey Durlacher anyway? Lindsey was one of the toughest Greco Roman wrestlers in the early 2000s, making the World team a number of times and representing the US in the World Maccabiah Games; there aren't many American Jewish wrestlers, let alone successful American Jewish Greco Roman wrestlers. He paid his dues by working his way up the World Team ladder each year, showing that it did not matter how old a wrestler was, through hard work any goal could be accomplished. Although short in stature, Lindsey Durlacher's attitude, words, and actions made him tall in our world. Yes, he was shorter than me, but he stood and lived larger than life. Often brash and sometimes arrogant, Lindsey could always make you laugh. Or kick your butt. Sometimes both. At the same time.
I first met Lindsey in 1989 during my first trip to Israel for the World Maccabiah Games. Lindesy's brother, Michael, and I were teammates on the wrestling team. Michael's family made the long trip from Chicago to Ramat Gan, Israel to watch their middle child compete in the Jewish Olympiad and brought their youngest son with to watch. Lindsey was the annoying little kid who followed us around like a puppy dog, asking all kinds of questions and generally getting in the way of things. Okay, so Lindsey was only three years younger than me, but he was still pretty tiny. He really wanted to know about our individual styles of wrestling so he could improve. I never imagined at the time that Lindsey Durlacher would be on top of the wrestling world in the collegiate and Greco Roman styles.
Fast forward a couple of years and I ran into Lindsey again- at Nationals. He was still pretty small: wrestling at 103, but he improved so much and was fun to watch. The great thing about our sport is that through competition we make incredible friendships that last a lifetime. Lindsey remembered me from Israel and immediately gave me a bear hug and asked about my family and how they were doing. The pleasantries were not forced, but genuine. That was Lindsey Durlacher; incredibly genuine whether you liked him or not.
He had a great college career at the University of Illinois, despite being a small 118-125 pound wrestler. He never stopped moving and outworking his opponents. Lindsey was even more fun to watch and nearly won an NCAA title. He was persistent, and much like his off mat persona wrestled like he had a chip on his shoulder. Maybe Lindsey had a little bit of a Napoleon complex like many of us short guys have, but the kid wrestled his tail off in college.
Fast forward again to 1993. Lindsey and I were again in Israel to compete in the World Maccabiah Games. This time, Lindsey was in his older brother's spot at 105.5 lbs. I definitely think this was one of the first breakthrough performances of his lengthy career. He wrestled well and opened the eyes of most of his teammates winning gold in his first real international outing. Little did we know that Lindsey Durlacher would eventually represent the USA on many senior World teams and accomplished what not many wrestlers- Jewish or not: World Championships bronze medalist. Not only did he wrestle hard, bit Lindsey celebrated hard too. Sometimes too hard. Before weigh ins. But he got the job done and still made us all laugh.
We lost touch after that, as I gave up wrestling to focus on college. We did speak on and off once I began coaching, wanting to get together to workout while he was an assistant coach at the Naval Academy, but that never materialized. I kept track of Lindsey's budding Greco career and was thrilled when he finally earned a trip to the World Championships. I was even more thrilled for him when after falling short in the big events, he finally won a World Championship medal- a bronze. The kid never quit on his dreams, kept plugging away long after most of us gave up the sport, and rightfully earned his rewards. There was a great picture of Lindsey on the MaccabiUSA website stepping off the airplane at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel proudly carrying the American flag after the US team landed in Israel before the Maccabiah Games. Not only did he carry the flag off the plane, but led the entire American contingent of over 500 strong at the Opening Ceremonies of the Maccabiah games. He was a proud champion of wrestling and of our shared faith in Judaism.
I was shocked and saddened to learn that Lindsey Durlacher passed away on Saturday. Apparently he recently underwent surgery after breaking his sternum snowmobile riding. As to the cause of his death, we don't know but it doesn't matter. Wrestling lost an amazing athlete, ambassador of the sport, and free spirit. Lindsey may have rubbed some people the wrong way with his confidence, but he could spin a tale and make you laugh. He was still involved in the sport he dedicated his life to. Although we hadn't spent time together in a long time, I will miss you Lindsey. I will never forget our shared times together training, socializing, and growing as young men. Here is a transliteration of a Jewish funeral prayer fitting for my fallen comrade:
El maley rachamim shochen bam'romim
hamtzey menuchah nechonah al kanfey haschechinah
bema'alot kedoshim ute'horim
kezohar harakia me'irim umazhirim
lenishmat Lindsey Durlacher.
ba'avur shekol beney hamishpachah, yedidim umakirim
mitpalelim le'iluy nishmato
began eden tehey menuchato
lachen ba'al harachamim yastireyhu
beseter kenafav le'olamim
veyitzror bitzror hachayim et nismato
Adonai hu nachalato Veyanuach beshalom al mishkavo
In other words:
G-d full of mercy who dwells on high
Grant perfect rest on the wings of Your Divine Presence
In the lofty heights of the holy and pure
who shine as the brightness of the heavens
to the soul of Lindsey Durlacher.
who has gone to his eternal rest
as all his family and friends
pray for the elevation of his soul.
His resting place shall be in the Garden of Eden.
Therefore, the Master of mercy will care for him
under the protection of His wings for all time
And bind his soul in the bond of everlasting life.
G-d is his inheritance and he will rest in peace
and let us say Amen.
As a fellow Jew and Greco Roman wrestler, I lost a hero in Lindsey Durlacher.
With the closing of the 2010-11 wrestling season I figure it is time enough for me to compose my first blog entry of the year. I want to apologize to the few readers of this blog, as I found myself busier than expected during the fall and winter months. At my real job, as the Health and PE Department Chair at Meadowbrook High School we had four new teachers imported to my department, two of whom are relative newcomers to education so I am serving in more of a mentoring capacity than ever before. It's been a lot of fun so far, but it does keep me on my toes.
It's hard to believe that the high school wrestling season is already over. It seems as if it were only yesterday that newly hired Athletic Director/Head Wrestling Coach John Gordon began pre-season workouts with a handful of guys. And here we are months later, looking back on another very successful season for St. Christopher's wrestling.
After last year's monumental successes on the mats and loss of a huge group of talented seniors, most Virginia private school wrestling coaches, writers, and fans thought that St. Christopher's almost decade long domination was going to end. "How can they win Prep League and States when they lost all of their studs? Even Jeske left!" is what I heard time and time again. It was like the beginning of a Bad News Bears movie about high school wrestling. So people thought.
Enter John Gordon. All Coach Gordon did in his tenure at Wyoming Seminary was take a very young and inexperienced program and develop it into a national powerhouse! Look at Seminary's results over the past three years and you will see what Gordon built. That is why I was so excited to have him on board at St. Christopher's. His reputation alone awe-struck a lot of St. Christopher's people. And then I met the man and began to work with him. That's when the real truth about John Gordon came out.
We know John is a fantastic wrestling coach, but he is also a fantastic teacher, motivator, and leader on and off the mat. I am sincerely grateful to have the opportunity to work with an incredible man. I definitely believe I improved as a coach and leader this year because of him. The way Coach Gordon works with the wrestlers is amazing. No yelling after matches, only constructive criticism, a pat on the back, and a "shot of water". Moreover, John Gordon believed in all of our guys- not just David Wesley, Trey Tarr, and Robert Janis. He helped the young kids: William Kelly, Matt MacLeod, Quent Alcorn, Marshall Hollerith, etc. believe in themselves and helped improve their wrestling throughout the season.
Take Quent Alcorn and Marshall Hollerith. Before this season the tandem wrestled a handful of varsity matches, and now they were thrust into the spotlight with little experience. All they did was improve and get better each week of the season, slowly churning their "what if" and "maybe" thoughts into "I can" and "I will" actions. Quent ended up winning a State title and Marshall finished third at States. Not bad for guys who didn't start last year.
Take Josh Setliff and David Austin. Again, no big experience on the varsity team. But each week they worked hard and began to believe in themselves. Josh was unseeded at States and ended up taking fourth. David went from not wrestling well in varsity matches, almost expecting to lose, to going after his opponents with great shots and tilts from the top.
And what about Matt MacLeod, the precocious, undersized 112 lber who never missed a practice session? MacLeod was the team's Rocky Balboa, who kept getting knocked down, only to get up again and again never wavering or quitting. The kid went 3-2 at States and scored some big points for the Saints. Talk about a huge upside!
We can't forget the leaders of the 2011 team: David Wesley, Trey Tarr, Robert Janis, Ben Thompson, Andy Pitts, and William Kelly. Each wrestler had big expectations, but never had additional pressure put on them by Coach Gordon or any of the assistants. They knew that they had responsibilities on the mat and in the practice room to work harder than their opponents (and teammates) and took their wrestling to another level. Coach Gordon didn't need to shout, scream, use negative reinforcement, etc. to motivate these kids. All he did was believe in them.
It's amazing to see what kids can do when people believe in them. They achieve. They succeed. That's all any athlete or student needs to be successful in whatever they do- somebody who believes in them and who helps them reach their goals.
Our wrestlers weren't burned out or hit their peak before States like in previous seasons. By the time States rolled around, this wrestling team was still getting better. The daily practice routine definitely helped, but a relaxed atmosphere in the wrestling room worked wonders. All of the guys had great attitudes and were in great shape this tournament season. They knew that John Gordon and his coaching staff were right there with them, believing what no other person in Virginia thought: VISAA State Championship number ten in a row. What a fitting way to end his first season at St. Christopher's. Thanks John, for keeping me around to help you through your first season in Virginia. It was an extreme pleasure getting to know and work with you.
Now I know why Seminary developed into a powerhouse.
Where does the time go? It seems as if yesterday was February and we were all preparing for States and Nationals, and here it is- almost August and time to head back to school. I trust that everyone has enjoyed their time away from wrestling, but before you know it, we will begin the quest for our 10th striaght VISAA State title. A lot has happened over the past few months that will change the dynamics of St. Christopher's wrestling. And, some of our kids have done some pretty good things too. I want to personally welcome our new Athletic Director and Head Wrestling Coach, Mr. John Gordon, to St. Christopher's. Coach Gordon comes to Richmond from Wyoming Seminary in Kingston, PA where he led Sem to a 2nd place finish at National Preps and a top ten ranking nationally. He brings an incredible amount of knowledge and passion for wrestling which will open a new chapter in St. Christopher's wrestling. I am excited for the opportunity to work with Coach Gordon and our Saints wrestlers.
I grew up in central Pennsylvania, where snow in the winter months was inevitable. It was just something we dealt with; I don't recall missing more than a day from school because of the weather each year. But once I moved south of the Mason-Dixon Line, if the threat of snow is in the forecast, you can bet that we won't have school. I remember a day in January, 2000 when I was teaching at Mount Calvary Catholic School and it began to snow and rain just about the same time school started. The school kept us in class until about 11 am and decided to send us home because the roads were getting icy. No big deal. But about an hour after school let out early, the snow stopped, the sun came out, and the temperature rose to almost 50 degrees! I wasn't complaining, because who in their right mind would argue about a free afternoon, but it was just so comical to watch the school scramble to figure out what to do about the weather.
It's almost time for the first St. Christopher's wrestler to step foot on the mat for the opening of the 2009-10 season. Many are anticipating what could be one of the most talented Saints wrestling teams in a number of years. Pre-season practices have been action packed so far; all of the kids old and new are working much harder at this point than compared to last year. The air in the wrestling room is thick with intensity; these boys are on a mission for the 2009-10 season. They want to prove that St. Christopher's can compete toe to toe with the heavyweights of high school wrestling. They also want to improve upon last year's finishes. Some have unfinished buisness, while others are just getting started. Either way you look at it, the season is going to be good.
The Saints don't have an easy first tournament to get their feet wet on the season. They will take on Wyoming Seminary (one of the top five teams in the US), two of the top teams in Virginia: AAA Frank Cox and AA Christiansburg at the Hopwell Classic on December 4th and 5th. Add in AAA Northern Region power Westfield and all of the top local wrestlers and you have a top notch opening date. There will be plenty of exciting action at Hopewell, a tournament that the Saints placed second at last year. Whichever Virginia team places highest will earn bragging rights as the state's best team this season. St. Christopher's hopes to be right in the thick of that action.
It doesn't get much easier on December 12th with the St. Christopher's Invitational at Scott Gymnasium. Central Region power Hanover comes to town with top AA Region III Brookville and Franklin County, one of Virginia's top AAA teams year after year to slug it out with the Saints. This tournament is being billed as "The Toughest Small Tournament in Virginia". Come out on December 12th and you will see why.
If you can't make it to the Saints's Invitational, we're going to try and webcast the championship finals. In my infinite nerd-dom, I found a webcasting site and will give broadcasting over the internet a shot. Who knows, maybe it will go well and develop into something really cool. We'll have to wait and see. I will post the link, times, and all the good information once we get closer to the date. One of my goals for the season is to get our faces out there and be seen.
And definitely check out the team store! The link is at the top of every page. You can purchase all kinds of cool St. Christopher's Wrestling gear and show your support. As always, I hope the season is enjoyable and exciting for everyone. I'll see you on the mats!
Written and Posted on: October 26, 2009
The wrestling season is right around the corner- are you ready for the madness? Many members of the wrestling team have spent their off seasons training and preparing for what could possibly be one of the most successful years in St. Christopher's wrestling. The talent coming back to the team for the 2009-10 season is amazing. Four National Prep All-Americans. Two VISAA State champions. Seven VISAA State placers. And add in two outstanding new wrestlers and you can see just how much potential this team has! The goals for the season include State title number nine in a row, and a top ten finish at Nationals.
Ted Gottwald, a two-time VISAA State champ and 2009 National Prep All-American leads the team, along with All-American Loren Phillips, 2009 VISAA State champ Mark Burlee, and two-time VISAA State placer Rennie Merhige as captains. Their outstanding leadership will improve things just a little bit more inside and out of the wrestling room.
These kids are hungry for success. They see what they did last year and realize that everybody has to step up and work just a bit harder to realize their goals. The talent in the room is amazing, just with the senior captains, but add in guys like David Wesley, who finished 5th at National Preps in '09, Robert Janis, and Trey Tarr, and even the underclass is ready to roll.
The 2009-10 season will also feature the debut of freshman sensation Brandon Jeske, who recently finished 2nd at the Super 32 tournament in North Carolina- probably the toughest pre-season tournament in the nation. He beat a bunch of really good kids on the way to the finals. Jeske comes to St. Christopher's as one of the top five middle school wrestlers in the US. He won the FILA Cadet Nationals in Greco and took 3rd at the Cadet Nationals in Fargo this summer. Jeske is ready to set the wrestling world on its heels this year. The Saints also have a quality transfer in sophomore Tyler Cornett, who comes to St. Christopher's from Massaponax HS in Fredericksburg where he was a AAA Northwest Region qualifier as a freshman. Cornett is a very hard working and determined wrestler. His enthusiasm and passion for success will definitely be contagious!
This is going to be a fun season; you have to be part of the action! You do not want to miss out on following this team. What separates them from other great high school teams is how down to earth and humble they are. These kids know that they are good, but understand that they have to take things to the next level and are willing to put in the time and effort to be successful. St. Christopher's begins the season at the Hopewell Classic on December 4th and 5th. This is going to be a very tough opener for the Saints. Wyoming Seminary, AA State champion Christiansburg, rising AAA power Frank Cox, and AAA Northern Region champions Westfield will be there, along with a host of top individual wrestlers. Be sure to follow St. Christopher's wrestling on our website: http://stchriswrestling.com and we will see you on the mats in 2009-10!
Written and Posted on May 16, 2009
I must take time out from talking about the world of wrestling according to me to talk about the bigger things out there: life, honor, and family.
I found out this week just how fragile life can be. On Tuesday, we learned that one of our 3Style wrestlers passed away at age 17- way too young! And Wednesday night, I received one of those phone calls no teacher wants to get with the US at war with Iraq and with the Taliban in Afghanistan: one of my former students from Massaponax was killed in action in Iraq. It's amazing how cruel life can be sometimes, with the loss of two outstanding young men.
I didn't know Stuart Slusher that well, other than the fact that he was a wrestler from Freeman HS. He was on our roster at 3Style and attended some practices. You hate to hear about any 17 year old losing their life, but when it is one of your wrestling family members, it hurts a little more. I wish I could have been there to talk to Stuart and help him through his anger and pain. Nothing as a teenager should be so bad where you take your own life. All it leaves is questions that none of us can answer. What remains is guilt and despair.
I am reminded of my freshman year in high school, twenty-two years ago,almost to the day. It was a Sunday night when I got the call. The captain of my wrestling team was dead, victim of a self inflicted gunshot. I was floored; it wasn't more than a week before when I last saw my captain, seemingly happy as always. What could have changed inless than two weeks? I'll never know. Not a day goes by when I don't think about him;
I know that he is watching over me as a guardian angel. That's all we can hope for. The pain is gone, but the scars will remain forever.
Ryan McGhee wasn't a wrestler, rather he excelled at football. He had a bum shoulder that popped out a lot. He played through pain without complaint. I remember one game where the only thing holding his arm in place from a dislocated shoulder was his shoulder pads. He never once complained about the pain; he just wanted to get better so he could get back into the game. He was a very good student, never taking the easy way out. Ryan knew the value of hard work and put plenty of time and effort into his studies. He could have gone to college right out of high school, but he decided to wait.
Ryan had a burning desire to serve his country in the military; one of his dreams was to be an Army Ranger. He did just that, serving four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. A natural leader, Ryan had recently been promoted to squad leader. And then in the blink of an eye, he's gone. During a fire fight in Iraq, he took a direct hit to the chest and died at age 21. Another victim of the seemingly senseless violence in a country far away from home. Ryan wasn't selfish; the many commendations he earned in his short military career meant little. They were nice pins for his dress uniform, but the honor of serving his country in the pursuit of freedom meant so much more to Ryan McGhee.
He was engaged to his high school sweetheart; they were going to marry next year. They were the cutest, happiest couple. Even though Ryan was out of the area much of the time while on active duty, he made sure to spend as much time as he could with his fiance. Despite the distance and the time apart, they made their relationship work. Ryan and Ashleigh truly personified the expression, "absence makes the heart grow fonder".
We should try not to grieve his loss, rather celebrate his life. I know that this will be difficult, because another young life was senselessly lost in a conflict far away from home that many of us do not believe our country should be involved in. There will be anger, tears, and more questions as we mourn the loss of Ryan, but I have to believe he would not want us to be sad. Ryan would want us to celebrate the triumphs of his life and remember him for the awesome guy he was. Yes, Ryan McGhee was a military hero, but he was a hero in his short life. Ryan was a hero in life for the great person he was. I feel horrible for his family and what they will have endure over the next few months and I pray that they are able to recover from this devastating loss.
No parent wants to bury their child. I ask that you pray for the Slusher and McGhee families and those directly affected by their losses. Let's hope they are able to recover and continue with their lives. Parents, embrace your children and hold them close to you for an extra moment or two. Let them know how much you love and care about them. Children, know that your parents love you and what they say and do reflects their love for you. They only wish the best for you. Don't ever doubt the love of a parent; no matter the circumstance never doubt unconditional love. Realize that our time on earth can be fleeting and make the most out of our lives. This is one of those moments where we must all realize that in the grand scheme of things, what we do in our lives can sometimes affect a community. We need to all come together to help those in their time of need.
G-d bless you all.
Written and Posted on May 4, 2009
Talk about a busy weekend! Friday night and all day Saturday at the VAWA Kids and Cadet States at Hopewell, and then Flo Wrestling at St. Chris on Sunday. Good thing next weekend is a "wrestling free" weekend for me. I need to recover from the overload. It's all good, of course.
Our 3Style kids did very well at States. Robert Janis definitely has potential in Greco; I think next year when he is a first year Cadet he will turn some heads! And Trey Tarr looked good too. He got to wrestle two of Virginia's best middleweights: Cody Allala and Jason Luster. Not bad at all. Congrats to Austin Coburn- 3Style's Cadet 171 State Champ. Despite giving up some weight (and definitely height), Austin was able to win his weight class and qualify for Nationals.
The St. Chris kids were really hyped up for Sunday morning's visit from Flo Wrestling- A NATIONAL wrestling web site that covers all ages of wrestling. This is going to be a great way to get our guys and program the type of exposure we need to help take things to the next level. Teddy, Tyler, Rennie, and Loren all did very well in their interviews. I think we did a great job of showing the true mission of what we do at St. Chris- eductating the WHOLE boy.
It became really apparent this weekend, what my true mission in coaching wrestling is all about. Not only do I want to develop National caliber wrestlers, but I want those National caliber wrestlers to understand that there must be priorities in life to be really successful. Some coaches put all of their emphasis on the wrestling only and more or less say, "Screw academics", but fail to realize that without sound academics, their athletes WON'T be able to take their wrestling to the next level. College coaches are not going to be willing to take kids into their programs who are marginal students. With Title IX, and the lack of financial opportunity in college wrestling, college coaches are not willing to give up scholarship money on somebody who may, or may not make it academically in college. We need to look at the bigger picture; wrestlers need to ask themselves where are they going to be in ten years, twenty years, etc. and figure out what are the most important things for them in life. It is important for a wrestler to use wrestling as the mechanism to get the best education possible at both the high school and college level. Success at the higher levels at wrestling is an additional bonus.
What is that national caliber kid learning from a coach who places all of their emphasis on wrestling and nothing else? Believe it or not, coaches are role models for their athletes. A high school coach's mission should be twofold: 1. Produce the most competetive athletes and teams possible, and 2. Prepare the student-athlete for life, which includes school! We can not get blinded by the idea of success and not see the bigger picture out there. The most elite wrestlers spend such a short, fragile part of their entire life at the top of the mountain; what is there after the glory fades? If that wrestler is not prepared to face the world in the best way possible, they will try and cling to that peak and hold on for all of their worth for as long as possible. Without having any real plans or ideas of what to do after wrestling, the chances at being able to provide for your family grow dim.
Don' t get me wrong- I want to win and produce as many top athletes as possible, but there is so much more to who I am as a person than just wrestling. I have a great job as a high school teacher, which I love. I am able to put two of my favorite things to do together and make a decent living at it. But there is so much more to who I am. I'm Rob- the son, the brother, the soon to be fiance, and so much more. I like to spend my time away from the mats with those who see me as more than just "Coach Prebes". And I firmly believe that I have my education to thank for this wholeness to my life. I'm crazy about wrestling, but I am also crazy about learning about history. And Science. And things that go boom.
The morale here is to keep your eyes on more than just the prize. Take a view from above and see how much more you can accomplish by getting a great education. St. Christopher's will prepare you for the next level athletically and academically. I think that's a pretty good combo, don't you?
We're doing the right thing at St. Chris. I firmly believe that we can be very successful and wrestle on a high level, without compromising our academics. That's just me.
Written and Posted on April 17, 2009
I am not looking forward to the almost four hour drive I have ahead of me this afternoon. I was asked to do a freestyle and Greco clinic at Mercersburg Academy by their head coach, who is a friend of mine and a colleague from when I coached at Massaponax. He was the head coach at Mountian View, one of our rivals in the Commonwealth District. It's going to be a fun clinic, but the ride through the heart of metro Washington, DC area during rush hour is not going to be part of the fun.
How about the four St. Chris wrestlers who were named to the All-Metro first team? Way to go Tyler, David, Ted, and Jackson! And looking at the rest of the first team, two other 3Style members were named to the All-Metro team. Additionally, four other members of 3Style were listed on the 2nd Team All-Metro, two being St. Chris wrestlers Trey Tarr and Mark Burlee. Not bad at all for our little club.
Even coaches can get frustrated at practice, as Tuesday's workout (4/15) proved. My technique dummy was not very cooperative with me and actually ended up throwing a forearm that hit me square in the face and nose. Some of the wrestlers told me afterward that I looked really mad; it was the maddest they have ever seen me in the wrestling room. I laughed it all off and got my payback on my dummy! My nose is okay; I don't think after two or three fractures throughout my wrestling career one more blow to my nose will do any harm. Maybe it will look better, who knows.
3Style practices are looking really good. I am happy with the turnout so far and hope to see our kids do well at some of the local and regional tournaments this spring and summer. Remember, there are two goals for 3Style: 1. to improve on your own personal wrestling skills, and 2. to qualify to compete for Team Virginia at some of the National level events this summer. The Kids and Cadet Division States are in a few weeks at Hopewell HS, so I hope to see plenty of our 3Style kids there. And in June, the Junior States will take place at Henrico HS. Plenty of opportunities ahead for our wrestlers.
Hope everybody has a great weekend of wrestling at Manchester or at the NOVA I tournament at Chantilly HS. Be ready to roll on Tuesday!
One of the legends of amateur wrestling, Wade Schalles, is going to put on a clinic on Tuesday, April 7th at St. Chris and I am excited! Schalles was one of the most dynamic, unorthodox, exciting wrestlers in the WORLD! The guy pinned everybody. He taped an X on the mat before a college match at Clarion University to show where he was going to pin his opponent. And you know what? He did just that! Schalles is a Distinguished Member of the National Hall of Fame and a pretty cool guy in my book. Although I never got to watch him wrestle in person, I knew of the legend of "Wonderous Wade" because we wrestled in the same district in high school. (Of course Wade wrestled college in the early 70s, when I was an infant). There are two things I remember about Wade Schalles; the first was about how the legend became the legend, and the other is a personal story involving Wade.
Believe it or not, Wade was "just" an "above average" wrestler entering his senior year of high school at Hollidaysburg in central Pennsylvania. He qualified for the PIAA States and made it to the finals. His opponent was Trinity's returning State champion John Chapman. Chapman was an outstanding wrestler- one of those supposed "unbeatable" wrestlers. This did not faze the ever confident Wade Schalles. He went out in front of a packed house at Penn State Univesity's Rec Hall and showed the returning State champion the lights. I think this pin is what really started the show for Wade. He went on to win NCAA titles at Clarion University and became the pinning machine..
After my freshman year of high school, I got a phone call from a relative stranger; he introduced himself as Wade Schalles. I was a student of the sport, so I knew all about his wrestling record. He called to invite me to a camp he was going to put on in Grundy, VA for the local kids. Grundy was the best AA team in Virginia at the time, so it was quite an honor to be selected to work his camp. A group of my peers from central Pennylvania were also selected to work the camp, so it was like going to a camp with a bunch of friends. Wade met us at a small airport near Altoona, PA where a Lear-Jet was waiting for us. A Lear-Jet! Apparently, the Grundy wrestling benefactor was extremely wealthy from all of the coal mines in southwest Virginia. For Schalles to invite me to work his camp was quite an honor. We all had a great time working at the camp; the mornings were spent working with the little kids and the afternoon was a live wrestling session with the Grundy wrestlers. I was impressed with Wade's technique and penchant for camraderie amongst wrestlers. The Grundy camp was quite an experience. What a very classy guy! Ironically, the following year at Nationals I had to wrestle the Grundy wrestler whom I stayed with at camp! We exchanged pleasantries before I went out and tech falled him in less than two minutes.
If you can make it out to the clinic- please do! You will get an opportunity to see one of the legends of the sport show his stuff to US at St. Chris. We don't get many opportunities like that in Virginia. It's going to be fun.
I told all of the kids and parents that were at practice to talk to their teammates and wrestler friends to get the message out about 3Style. You can't match the expertise of our coaches. While I enjoy coaching folk-style during the high school season, freestyle and Greco are my forte. This is what I really love to coach! Freestyle and Greco are much more wide open styles of wrestling, and offer wrestlers the opportunity to score lots of points without having to maintain control of their opponent. For example, in freestyle or Greco I can headlock my opponent to his back and allow him to wiggle out and get back to his feet before a "five" count for near fall and STILL score three points! What was a cool looking move (the headlock) wouldn't score in high school, because I didn't maintain control long enough for the official to count points. It's a lot o fun.
If you want to learn about freestyle and Greco- you need to come out to our club. There will be plenty of clubs in the area that say they will work on freestyle and Greco, but to get the best training, you need to come to us at 3Style!
Written and Posted on March 10, 2009
It's been nearly three weeks since the end of the folkstyle season, and I have definitely enjoyed the break from the intensity of high school wrestling. It's been nice to have a few weekends to catch up with my girlfriend. She was awesome during wrestling season, completely understanding that my focus was on the practices and tournaments. She was very cool with all that I do during the season.
I am rejuvenated and ready to go for freestyle and Greco season! This is where State and National championships are really made. I don't care what your high school coach says, but freestyle (and Greco) can and do help you become a better wrestler. Since much of the wrestling takes place in the neutral position, freestyle and Greco will help make you a better takedown wrestler. You will begin to understand the strategies of using the mat to your advantage. Greco wrestling will teach you how to hand fight, how to get and keep good position, and how to block your opponent's offense. And you all thought Greco was "just" about throws. Both freestyle and Greco will help you become better at not giving up back-points, since points are scored in freestyle and Greco when your shoulders break 90 degrees for even a fraction of a second. It's all about back exposure. Plus, it's just so much fun!
Many of the best wrestlers at the NCAA level are freestyle and Greco wrestlers. I could go down the list of this year's potential NCAA Champions and point out who did what at Nationals in Fargo. Seriously, freestyle and Greco do make you better!
On a different note, I am excited for the NCAA Division I Tournament, as one of my former wrestlers, Josh Wine, will compete for VMI at 285. He won the Southern Conference over the weekend and qualified for Nationals for a second year in a row. Not bad for a "part-time" wrestler. He also plays football for VMI, so to go from one sport, right into wrestling, and qualify for Nationals says something pretty cool. And how about Kevin Donahue? I think he became St. Christopher's School's first NCAA wrestling All-American with his 7th place finish at the Division III Tournament for Cornell College (IA). Kevin had a very good tournament after losing his first match, he did what he had to and got to the podium. Donahue was a four-time VISAA State Champion and three-time National Preps All-American for the Saints.
So get out there and get back on the mats! 3Style Club is starting up again on the 24th of March at St. Chris! Ray Baldwin, Frank Kiefer, I will be running the show, so you know it's going to be a great learning experience. Greco is my favorite style of wrestling, so you can bet I will have all of my tricks (and some new ones) ready on the 24th!Be there at 6:30 PM on March 24th so you can get started on winning your State title next year!
Written and Posted on February 23, 2009
It's been almost ten years since I last attended the National Prep Tournament at Lehigh University. Not much has changed since 2000- Blair Academy is still the top wrestling school in the nation, Pennsylvania is rediculously cold in February, and Gimp the Tournament Director never wears shoes. St. Christopher brought seven wrestlers to the 74th National Prep Championships all with the goal of becoming All-Americans and/or National champions. Five of them realized their goal, and a sixth was one point shy of All-American status.
After the intense week leading up and concluding with States, National Preps was almost the polar opposite. Don't get me wrong, the kids trained hard all week, but there was much less pressure as a whole. We knew that if each wrestler worked hard in their matches, they would be able to become an All-American. And five of them- the most in St. Chris history did just that! Two of our wrestlers, Loren Phillips and Chris Gill defeated VA wrestlers who beat them at States the week before. Loren finally got the best of Cape Henry's Sam Law, securing a takedown in the first overtime period, while Chris Gill developed (and followed through) with his own game-plan against Liberty Christian's Ethan Hagner and came out on top.
Trips like these are incredible bonding experiences for wrestling and coaches. The five hour drive from Richmond to Bethlehem, PA was filled with good music and plenty of jokes and stories to pass the time. Of course, the weight cutters (okay, just Rennie Merhige) were miserable on the way up to Lehigh, but everyone was in great spirits on the way home (okay, I wasn't when I found out I had to drive the last leg home, which meant driving a mini-bus on the Washington Beltway...but I survived). Teams seem to come together and get closer through these types of road trips.
We all thought a hurricane was blowing through the Lehigh Valley Thursday night, as we tried to walk from the hotel to the Red Robin across the parking lot, but it was apprently worth it. Adam found the woman of his dreams (okay, the woman of his weekend) working as a hostess at Red Robin. The team got to see the good ole "Beaver Pellet", as Coach Baldwin called it on a couple of the wrestling officials. For those who don't know what a Beaver Pellet is, it's a northern expression for the mullet. And speaking of mullets, there was a kid with the last name, "Mullet". How about that?
The wrestling was fierce and intense, but St. Chris battled through to a 12th place finish, wrestling with out Tyler Spangler, who was home sick. David Wesley's spladle in the early rounds of the tournament was awesome! Definitely check out the video on Flo Wrestling's website! Chris Gill definitely put together one of the best efforts on the weekend with his 8th place finish. All of the kids wrestled tough and earned their All-American medals.
So now we're going to take a few weeks off to rest, recover, and reload. I'm very pleased with my first season as a Saints coach. We had a great season on and off the mats. Even in the face of adversity, the team stuck together and pulled through. Thanks to everybody- kids, coaches, parents, etc. for a wonderful first year...the first of many at St. Christopher's for sure! Enjoy the time off! It's a well deserved rest!
Written and Posted on February 17, 2009
What an incredible weekend of wrestling and drama! I have never coached a team that had the potential to win a State championship until coming to St. Chris this year. When it comes to the State tournament series, my main concern was to get as many of my wrestlers to the "Big Show". See, in the public schools a wrestler has to place in the top four of their weight class at Districts to qualify for the Region tournament and then place in the top four at Regions to make it to States. And the goal at States is to get those qualifiers into the second day and on to the awards podium on Saturday night. My teams were never in a position to contend for the team title; we never had more than four kids qualify for States. In the public schools it takes at least eight or nine kids to qualify and place at States in order to win the team title. But with the VISAA State tournament at the Siegel Center, it was down to St. Chris and Bishop O'Connell.
Five and a half points separated us from O'Connell. That works out to about two wins by pin, or some combination of that. It was close. I don't normally concern myself with team scores, but I couldn't help but to periodically ask, "How did O'Connell do in that match?", or "How many kids does O'Connell have left?". I knew we had the potential to win without Seth Wagner, but when Trey Tarr didn't make weight I thought our chances were slight at best, to win. But the 11 place winners wrestled their tails off and brought home number eight to St. Chris.
Robert Janis continues to get better and better with each passing week at 103. He very nearly pinned his opponent in the quarters, but fought back for a great 5th place finish. Not bad for an 8th grader! Andy Pitts did a very good job at 112. His spirit is strong and will develop into a very tough kid. He was upset with his 6th place finish. What can you say about Tyler Spangler? We all knew that his knee was not feeling good, but he still went out there and dominated each of his four opponents and won his third state title at 125. The kid is going to be very tough in college.
It was great to see Rennie Merhige come back and reach the finals at 135, considering he had been out for the past month with a bad shoulder. I was very proud of Rennie at States; his mental toughness seems to be back. He battled a tough kid in the semis and hung tough with O'Connell's Jonathan Carpenter in the finals. Although David Wesley dropped another tough match to Bobby Burg of Woodberry Forest in the finals at 140, he had a great State tournament. The difference in his wrestling from last year to this year is amazing. He is only going to get better and better! Loren Phillips very nearly beat Sam Law of Cape Henry Collegiate in the finals at 145. He had Law on the ropes for the better part of the second and third periods. Like Rennie Merhige, Loren's confidence is high after some ups and downs in the early part of the season.
Ted Gottwald solidified his place amongst the best of St. Christopher's, and he is only a junior! Ted wrestled a great tournament at 160 and brought home his second state title. He has to be one of the most steady wrestlers for the Saints. And what can you say about Edward Custer at 171? How about, great job? Edward's 7th place finish was crucial to the team standings. And he had a couple of great tosses in his match against Woodberry Forest too! Mark Burlee has to be considered one of the most improved wrestlers on the team this year. He started as a utility man at the beginning of the year, wrestling anywhere from 189 to 285 and won the state title at 189! Another utility man, Chris Gill, is finally coming into his own at 215. His 4th place finish speaks volumes about his progress this year. I am very proud of Jackson Freeman. He pretty much gave up a state championship at 215 in order to help out the team at 285. He very nearly beat the Blue Ridge kid in the finals too.
I think we did a great job of showing the Richmond area and all of Virginia that private school wrestling is just as tough as the public schools this year. It's not so much where you wrestle these days, it's how much hard work you put into your wrestling that makes the difference. I am so proud of all of our kids! At the beginning of the season, I was not sure what the season would bring. I knew we had a lot of talent on the team, but it wasn't until Saturday night that they showed the entire state what they are all about. The strides that some of the kids (Janis, Burlee, and Custer come to mind) made throughout the season was awesome.
I hope that the success continues this week at National Preps, but more importantly, I can't wait until next season to see if we can continue the streak. Cape Henry Collegiate, Liberty Christian, and some other schools are already chomping at the bitt for us next year, so we'll have to step up our game to stay on top. I would like to see St. Chris go from one of the best in Virginia to one of the best in the US next year.
Way to go guys. You did an great job over the weekend. We're all proud of you.
Written and Posted on February 12, 2009
I want to tell you a true story from my wrestling career. It's a story about how we can overcome insurmountable odds and achieve any goal that we set.
When I was a freshman in high school, I had a great season- District and Regional champion and a State place winner. In the off season I was able to continue the great wrestling. I won the USA Wrestling Cadet Nationals and took 2nd in the FILA Cadet Worlds. My coaches, parents, teammates, and I all thought I got screwed in my finals match against a wrestler from Turkey. The Turk scored points that were not earned and I did not receive points for scoring moves. I was completely devastated after losing that match. For weeks (and months) afterward I could not shake off that loss. It weighed on my mind every day leading into my sophomore season. My focus was gone; if I was not able to get a fair match in an international tournament, what's to say I would get the same treatment in Pennsylvania? I know- irrational thoughts, but when the ONE goal that I worked so hard for was taken away, not by a better wrestler but by the officials, it just destroyed me. I seemed to not care about wrestling. My training was unfocused and I was extremely undisciplined with my weight. I struggled with issues of confidence; I did not think I could beat anybody anymore. I went from a returning State placer as a freshman, to the kid who won Nationals but could not get out of the District tournament as a sophomore. I became the butt of many jokes in central Pennsylvania. I even tried to quit at least three or four times during my sophomore season. I wrestled without heart and passion; for those who know me understand that passion and heart are so important to me in wrestling. Not a day went by without thinking of that night in Collingwood, Ontario Canada against that Turk. I wandered aimlessly though that wrestling season; losing that second match at Districts simply solidified the notion that I was done. Lost. Over.
But I continued wrestling in the off season, simply because it was habit and pattern. I didn't want to wrestle in the off season; I just did because it was what I was supposed to do. I felt a little more comfortable wrestling Greco, but meandered through the spring season. I qualifed for the PA Greco States and actually made the finals (there were only four or five of us in the tournament, so it wasn't like I had to wrestle well to make the finals), but drew a rising pheom Cary Kolat. Up to that point in his career, Kolat lost a total of two or three matches in about six or seven years! He was a legend even when he was young. Everybody knew about Cary Kolat; he was unbeatable. And I had to wrestle him at a time when my mind was not focused. Kolat kicked my butt; he beat me 12-6. I scored my points off of one move: a duck under for a takedown right into a reverse gutwrench lift and throw. The object with the reverse lift is to deadlift your opponent to your waist, and throw him over your head while hitting a back arch. I think I was (and still am) the only wrestler to throw Kolat for a "5". Kolat dominated the match, pretty much humiliating me in front of my friends and family. One of my close friends took me aside and told me that this match was the first time in a long time that Cary Kolat had been pushed.
My friend continued, saying he felt that I could really beat Kolat if I stepped up my training and actually believed in myself. To beat Kolat it was going to take me to finally put the ghosts of the Cadet World Championships to rest. My friend told me that I needed to do some growing up and let the past go. It was not like I could go back in time and re-wrestle that match in Canada. He said I should suck it up and move on. You know those little tingles you get and that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you are getting psyched up? For this first time in almost a year, I had those feelings. The great thing was, I had another opportunity to wrestle Cary Kolat- at Nationals! What a fitting way to jump start my wrestling career. My friend told me that I needed to go on a Vision Quest to retake my place in the circle. I had to find a way to believe in myself. I spent a long time thinking about what my friend said. In the middle of that same night, I awoke out of a dream and had an epiphany.
It was like a light bulb finally went on over my head- somebody actually believed in me. If he believed in me, why shouldn't I believe in me? It was time to make let the past go. I made the commitment to train. To beat Cary Kolat. To find my place back in the circle of my peers. The very next day I got back to work. I began to train harder and more focused, working on the things that would help me prepare for Nationals. I was the returning champion, but I was going in as the underdog. I was fine with that; as long as Kolat and I were able to reach the finals was the only thing I thought about. My weight was usually a big issue, but not this time. I was notorious for cutting large amounts of weight, in a short period of time, and the wrong way. I reached training camp in July in the best shape of my life and only a few pounds over my weight class- 112.
My training partner during camp was the last person to defeat Cary Kolat- Tim Queen. Tim and I drilled relentlessly and pushed each other harder than all of the others in practice. We both had goals of winning Nationals to fulfill. In our downtime between training sessions we focused on mentally preparing ourselves for Nationals. We both believed that we could win our weight classes at Nationals. Secretly, our teammates began to handicap the potential finals match between Kolat and I. Nobody, except for Tim, my training camp roommate, and I thought I was going to last the entire match with Kolat. Every single negative word directed towards me during training camp did nothing to shake my confidence. They were just words; I had to keep my focus. Each night when I tried to fall asleep, I pictured myself wrestling the perfect match and defeating Kolat.
The preliminary rounds of the National tournament were just a warm up for Kolat, Tim, and I. The three of us reached the finals without much of a fight. Tim was wrestling in the weight class below me, so the two of us were able to warm up together before the finals. The only things I thought about were scoring the first takedown and making sure that I had the lead at the end of the first period.Tim's match didn't take very long, as he headlocked and pinned his opponent from Wisconsin.
For the finals, I was scheduled to wear a red singlet- my lucky color. After getting some last second instructions from my coach, I jogged out to the mat to try and make my Vision Quest come true. I remember being extremely nervous, but ready to go. Kolat and I slapped hands and the match began. My first goal was to score the first point of the match...Kolat quickly hit a takedown for the first points of the match. Fortunately, I was able to recover and score a takedown and turn. Trying to keep up with Kolat's pace was very difficult. He is relentless; he keeps coming at you and coming at you and coming at you like a machine. I wasn't able to score with the reverse lift when I got on top. Apparently, he worked hard on defending my lift. At the end of the first period, I was behind 4-3. So my second goal was not met. I was not going to break.
My coaches told me that I needed to keep up with the pace and continue working for good Greco position. See, Kolat was not a "true" Greco wrestler. True Greco wrestlers workfor inside position, underhooks, and maintained contact at all times with their opponent in a slower, more methodical pace. Kolat wrestled more of an upper body freestyle wrestler in Greco. That made him dangerous because he was so darn quick and agile. I did the best I could with the pace of the match, scored some good points and kept things close. With less than thirty seconds left in the match I was down 8-7. Kolat kept attacking.
Not wanting to give up, I persisted with my Greco attack. I remember trying to pummel in for an underhook with my right arm, but Kolat quickly changed levels and began a duck under. With about ten seconds left in the match, somehow out of sheer desire, instinct, or diving intervention, I reached back and grabbed Kolat's far shoulder and threw my hips into him. Since he was changing levels, I was able to unbalance Kolat and toss him to his back. Kolat quickly made it to his stomach and I landed on top of him. When I saw the official raise three fingers to indicate a three point (feet to back) scoring move, I knew I had the match in the bag. The final few seconds of the match seemed to last forever. When the buzzer rang to conclude the match, I jumped off Kolat and pumped a fist in the air. Tim was right there at the side of the mat and caught me i nhis arms to celebrate the victory. Not only had I beaten the unbeatable, but I also won my second National Championship!
There are a few morals to the story. One, don't ever let yourself get psychologically broken over a wrestling match. Give it your best effort and leave it all on the mat. Be upset if you lose, but move on. Harping on a bad match can make coming back from that loss much more difficult. Learn from the mistakes and move on, even if you believe the official screwed you. Two, have confidence in your abilities and train as hard as possible. The slacking you do in your training will definitely show on the mat in competition. Believe in yourself, your technique, and ability. Focus on your match goals and work to accomplish them. Three, it does not matter how "unbeatable" a wrestler is, they can be defeated. Most of this idea comes from being mentally ready to go. Have faith in yourself and your abilities. On any given day, even the best wrestler can be defeated. Don't ever quit when you are behind in the score. Keep pushing the pace and make good attempts. And finally, you can accomplish anything in wrestling, life, etc. if you focus on your task, work hard, and believe in yourself. Saying you believe in yourself is one thing, but you actually need to have that faith in yourself to accomplish your goals.
As we prepare for States, realize that YOU are the master of your own destiny. There is no magic pill or drink that makes champions. It's hard work, determination, and faith in self. Your coaches will be there to offer suggestions and help, but it is only up to YOU to reach your goals. Believe in yourself and you will come out on top! Good luck at States Saints!
Final Note: Cary Kolat went on to be a four-time PA State Champion in high school. He was a two-time NCAA Champion and four-time All-American. He represented the USA in numerous senior level World Championships and was a member of the 2000 Olympic Team.
Written and Posted on February 9, 2009
What a weekend of wrestling! If you were not able to make it up to Washington DC to watch the St. Alban's Tournament, you missed out on some good stuff! St. Alban's is an interesting tournament- on one hand you have Wyoming Seminary, a national powerhouse, Georgetown Prep, DeMatha, Bishop O'Connell, and Woodberry Forest, all really good teams. And on the other hand you have teams like McLean, Maret, and Edmund Burke, who won maybe a combined total of ten matches between the three of them. St. Alban's is sink or swim...you wrestle a stud one round, and then get to beat up on a fish the next. It's very strange. We wrestled without five of our normal starters and finished in 6th place. Not too bad at all. And how about Jackson Freeman? He almost gets DQed in the semis for an "illegal slam", then pins the #1kid in VA at heavyweight in the finals.
But now it's on to the "big week": States. There's a buzz throughout Virginia this week because it is the lead up to the State Championships at the Siegel Center in Richmond. It's going to take a total team effort for the Saints to bring home #8. There are plenty of people and schools that want to knock St. Christopher's off. There are plenty of people who think that St. Christopher's is not as tough as in past years. We're going to have all of our starters back in the line up, but it will take every single wrestler doing their part to win the team title. We can't settle for average when decent is better. We can't settle for good, when excellent is possible. Some wrestlers are just happy to make it to the medal round, but what wins state championships is the desire to do the best possible. The best wrestlers are always working to win the tournament, but if they lose a match along the way, the best wrestler wants to finish as high as they can. Champions don't settle for second best; they are not satisfied with anything less than their best effort. This idea is what will help us bring home the title.
The wrestlers must focus on their task at hand for the week. I am looking forward to feeling the intensity in the practice room this week. I have never been part of a team, as an athlete or as a coach that has the possibility of winning a State championship. I can not begin to tell you how excited I am for this week. I am already beginning to feel the intensity of what it's going to take to do well this weekend. We told the kids Saturday night after St. Alban's that we all must focus, train hard, and work as hard as possible this week to make it happen. Every single wrestler and coach has a job to do this week in preparation for States. I for one, am ready to roll.
Through the blood, through the sweat and the tears we must continue. Despite the pain from a season's worth of pounding the mats and the thoughts that question the sanity of training we must go on. Even though our bodies tell us to stop, it is our hearts that push us through the wall in front of us. One more takedown. One more escape. One more buddy carry. One more than our opponents. That's what wins State championships. Don't give in to the voice inside your head that tells you to stop when you are growing tired! Pick yourself up from the mat, despite the feelings of fatigue, pain, and doubt that rule your world and carry on. Don't ever quit on yourself. The easy thing to do when you have doubts, when you are tired, or when you are behind in the score is to quit. The most difficult decision you will have to make this week is whether or not you want to dig in, pick yourself up, get back into the mix, and get the takedown that will tie up the score to send the match into overtime. Saints don't take the easy way out, do they?
Written and Posted on February 2, 2009
One of the funniest movies I have ever seen was Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray as a news reporter who is assigned to go to Punxsutawney, PA to cover the famous event. What happens in the movie is Bill Murray wakes up every day to relive Groundhog Day over and over again. Wrestling season is a lot like Groundhog Day. Practice at the same time every day, warming up, going through the drills, day in, day out. It may seem mundane to the untrained eye, but the ritualistic, repetetive drilling every day serves an important purpose: to prepare for battle on the mats. Sometimes our practices can get silly, but most of the time we are all serious and working on our game.
With the St. Alban's Tournament, States, and National Preps on the horizon, we hope to see the best wrestling out of our kids yet. I think we heading in the right direction to peak at the right time. I'm excited to get back up to DC for St. Alban's; this will be my first time back at the tournament since 2000 when I coached at Bishop McNamara. I hope to see some of my kids from McNamara at the tournament and catch up with them. And then it is on to States. It's great to think that our tournament will be in a better venue than the AAA States! The Seigel Center will be a great place to hold the State tournament. It's going to be a great battle between St. Chris and O'Connell this year. I know our Saints wrestlers have worked very hard for their moment; let's put it all together at States!
All in all, it's been a great year. I hope to see you in the spring and summer for our club events! Summer wrestling makes for winter champions!
Written and Posted on January 26, 2009
Cue the music- "It's most wonderful time of the year"! Oh wait, Christmas was at the end of last month. But it is the beginning of the most wonderful time of the year for wrestlers: the post season! This is when all of the pain, suffering, weight cutting, etc. finally seems worthwhile. Everybody is focused on the ultimate goal(s): winning State and National championships. This is the time of the year when regular season records are often put aside and legends are created and hopes, dreams, and goals can come true. The post season comes down to who has the most guts, grit, and determination to pull through each week.
I'm new to private school wrestling. The last time I was at National Preps was way back in 2000 when I brought a few of my Bishop McNamara kids up to compete against the likes of Blair Academy, Mount Saint Joe's, and DeMatha. My McNamara kids were not on this level of wrestling, but they fought with every ounce of pride in their bodies. In the public schools in Virginia, the top four place winners in the District tournament move on to Regions, and the top four at Regions move on to States. There is a bit of "do or die" mentality in this; if you don't win at least two matches at Districts, you won't move on to Regions. And in most Regions, you have to win at least three or four matches to qualify to States. There is a sense of urgency in public school wrestling to move on to the next level. Each year at Massaponax I saw at least one of my "marginal" kids wrestle two or three matches out of their minds to move on to Regions and/or States with a less than glamorous record. Records mean nothing in the post season. The only thing that matters is heart and courage. If you have heart and courage, you can do anything.
What I'm trying to say is that everybody needs to work hard over the next few weeks to make the most out of their season. Dreams are made and broken over the course of the next month. I've been on the end of both- as a freshman nobody in their right mind expected me to do win Districts and Regions, but I was able to do both (beating a number of seniors at 98 lbs. on the way) and placed 5th at States because of heart and courage. But then as a sophomore, my dreams of winning the State championship were halted at Districts when I did not place in the tournament and failed to move on to Regions. I have seen plenty of state qualifiers, place winners, and even STATE CHAMPIONS not make it back to States the following year! It all comes down to who wants it more in the end.
Do you have what it takes to become a state champion? Yes, you do. All of the kids at Saint Chris have worked very hard this year and have all of the tools and talent to win. Will you become a state champion? This I can't answer, nor can the other coaches. We can't go out there on the mats at the Seigel Center for you and wrestle (if I could, I would); so it all comes down to what YOU want to accomplish. How bad do you want to see yourself on top of that podium? You have the skills to beat anybody in the state, regardless of public or private school status. Everything from this point on has to be for a purpose, and that purpose is for you to go out there every match and dominate. Make your legacy, stake your claim to be the best that has ever come out of St. Chris.
Over the next few weeks I hope to work with you on the mental aspect of wrestling. Those who are mentally prepared and focused on what they need to do usually win. If you set your mind to it, believe in yourself, and work hard in practice, you can and WILL do anything you want.
Written and Posted on January 20, 2009
I'm not a big fan of dual meet tournaments, they're just way too much stress on a coach. We have to strategize and maneuver the line up to get the best match ups to win the match. Round after round, watching the score go back and forth....it's pretty crazy. We wrestled really well at the Freedom Duals. St. Chris proved again that we can (and do) wrestle with the best teams in the area and state, public or private. It's especially nice since one of the teams we beat along the way does not give us any respect. Eventually that will change...we hope.
Robert Janis had a banner day at 103. He was impressive in all of his matches; he knew he had to go out there and win in the last dual against Cosby and wasted little time getting the pin and sealing the match! It all goes back to the hard work he has put into the season. Not bad for an 8th grader. Ted Gottwald won the 100th match of his career- as a junior! Very cool for him. I could go on and on.
What pleased me the most was the confidence and poise our kids showed in every match. Mark Burlee could have gotten into a shoving match with his opponent from Hanover, but chose to let his wrestling do the talking. Trey Tarr could have given up when his nosebleeds went crazy, but not even taping his face in the Cosby dual could keep him from winning.
I hope that you are able to get out and watch this team wrestle! Talk about a technically sound group of kids! We're only going to get better and better along the way.
Written and Posted on January 14, 2009
It's hard to believe that the 2008-09 wrestling season is more than half over. Before we know it, the team will be preparing for the State and National Prep tournaments! Where does all the time go? It seems like it was only yesterday that the first offical day of practice began. I barely knew any of the kids or coaches names and now look where we are! Along with the new kids, I have learned a whole new system of wrestling and drills, complete with different terminology! I've always been a pretty simple wrestler with an in your face, I'm going to smash and overpower you style, but it has been a blessing to soak up all of the new stuff this year. Many thanks to Coach Kiefer, Baldwin, and Canaday for the new technique. I think I am beginning to get it.
The kids are beginning to get it too. It has been a pleasant surprise to see how much guys like Seth Wagner and Edward Custer are improving each week. And the core group of kids (Spangler, Tarr, etc.) keep getting better and better. I don't think the other private schools know what is in store for them when they wrestle St. Chris! Even the youngsters are improving too. I tell all of the lightweights that their first year of high school wrestling will be tough (and it has been) and they will take their lumps, but eventually the light switch will go on and all of the beatings they have taken will become beatings they will give out to their opponents. It just takes time.
I'm reminded of my freshman year in high school in Pennsylvania. I was the only 9th grader on the high school team. At my high school in the 80s, freshmen competed on the Junior High team (grades 7-9) and moved up to high school as sophomores. So, I was sort of like what Robert Janis is doing at St. Chris as an 8th grader. Anyway, my workout partner that year was a senior who wrestled at 112 named Rusty Horner. I never will forget what he told me on my first day of high school practice: "Prebish, I'm going to kick your butt every day in practice. I'm going to make you cry every day". Rusty lived up to his promise; he beat me every which way possible. I think I scored fewer than five takedowns on him the ENTIRE season. Rusty loved to work legs when he was on top and enjoyed abusing me with his power half, tilts, and general forearms and cross faces to my head. I'm not ashamed to admit that he made me cry on a daily basis. I didn't know why Rusty Horner was so tough on me at the beginning of the season; I thought he just did not like me. Boy was I wrong! Rusty wanted me to get used to the pounding that we all take in high school wrestling! He was preparing me for battle. And at the end of the season, Rusty Horner's beatings paid off. I was one of three District Champions for my high school, the only Regional Champion, and the school's lone State placer that year. And I owe most of it to Rusty Horner!
We all need to find our own Rusty Horners in the St. Chris wrestling room to push us harder than we have ever gone before and to never give up on us no matter how bad we are wrestling. The hard work will pay off! I was fortunate that it paid off in my first year of high school wrestling. It has taken some of my better wrestlers at Massaponax until their junior and/or senior years to realize their potential. There is always time.
Written and Posted on January 12, 2009
What a weekend! Intense is the only word that comes to mind when looking back on the Virginia Duals. The team wrestled very well in most places and very nearly made it to the 3rd place match, but wrestling is one of those sports where one little, tiny mistake can be very costly. We found that out the hard way against James Wood in the consolation-semis. It sucks, but life must continue. We have the Collegiate match on Wednesday, so we must let that match go.
If you were not able to make the trip to Hampton, you missed out on one heck of an event! There were ten mats going on each round, four had college matches and the other six had high school duals. Some of the top teams in the country made the trip to the Duals both college and high school. We got to see some really good wrestling. There more exposure to good wrestling our kids can get, the better off we will be in the long run. Most of the private schools in Virginia do not wrestle in the types of events we go to. We train harder than most schools- public or private and it will pay off at the end of the season.
For me, the Virginia Duals was a bittersweet reunion with my former team- Massaponax from Fredericksburg, VA. It was really nice to see "my" old kids and their parents to catch up on how they have been doing. The funny thing was, I did not find myself saying, "Boy I wish I was back at Massaponax". The experiences with St. Chris this year have been more than wonderful for me. It's awesome to be associated with such a great wrestling program with coaches who care, and parents who are incredibly supportive. I hope it continues as the season continues.
Hope to see you Wednesday at home as we take on Collegiate and then on Saturday at the Freedom Duals. We're beginning to head into the homestretch of the season and there will be some BIG events coming up.
Written and Posted on January 8, 2009
It's the day before we leave for the Virginia Duals; I can hardly wait to get down to Hampton and begin wrestling! Here's a little known tidbit about the Duals: my sister in law's late father, Steve Fishbein, helped with the creation of the tournament! Anyway, we've had a good week of practice and the kids are primed and ready to roll. The theme of the week so far has been, "Beat York" so we don't get ahead of ourselves. If all goes correctly, we should have a full line up for the Duals. I've never been to the Duals or Hampton Coliseum, but Coach Baldwin assures us that we are in for a very special treat! Heck, the opportunity to wrestle against some of the best teams in the country is special enough, and to think that we will be able to watch Oklahoma State, Lehigh, Old Dominion, etc. in the National College Division. And in the Black and Blue Division we have...Massaponax, the school I coached at for seven years. It will be nice to see the kids and parents, but at the same time it will be a strange. I'm glad we won't go against Massaponax; I've coached against teams I used to coach in the past and it was never a pleasant experience.
The kids are very focused on what they need to do this week. I am very pleased with how the workouts have been going. Just about everybody has been working hard and giving their best effort. It's great to see the battles that go on during the live wrestling sessions. No one is slacking this week. You can feel the electricity in the air when you walk into the wrestling room. I hope that you will be able to join us in Hampton as we take part in the Virginia Duals. I will bring my laptop with me and if I can get a wireless internet connection, I'll be able to keep the site up to date and let those who can't make it know how we are doing in Hampton.
Best of luck to the JV wrestlers, as they head to Deep Run tonight for another JV Alliance event. I am confident that we will do very well tonight.
Written and Posted on January 6, 2009
Thanks for coming to Coach Prebish's Blog page. Here you can read more about St. Christopher's wrestling, all of the styles of wrestling, and/or anything related to wrestling. I am crazy about wrestling; I have been associated with the sport since I was nine years old in one way or another. Those who know me can tell you how passionate I am about the sport. Then again, all of you St. Chris fans got an opportunity to see my passion at the Hanover Duals in Loren Phillips' versus Forest Park.
I am so happy to be part of the St. Chris tradition. I have admired the program since I moved to Fredericksburg, VA in 2001. Coach Shaifer and Coach Palmer (All-American Wrestling Club and Atlee HS) brought me in to do clinics in the summer a number of times and a few of our kids were on the Fargo team that competed at Cadet/Junior Nationals in Fargo. There used to be a stigma attached to private school wrestling in Virginia that the best private schools could not compete against the public school kids effectively. I definitely believe that St. Chris has destroyed that idea. We can wrestle with anybody at any level and I think that says something about the program! I hope we are able to continue the tradition by building the younger kids up so when they get to the varsity level they are ready to step in and roll!
Please encourage your kids to continue wrestling in the "off" season. Three-Style WC will be running again after the season. Summer wrestling creates winter champions! Plus, freestyle and Greco Roman wrestling are lots of fun. They are both wide open styles of wrestling. I hope we have a large number of wrestlers who are serious about improving themselves in the off season. My primary focus will be with the Greco Roman style, but there will be emphasis on freestyle too. Anything you can do in folkstyle, you can do in freestyle. Any extra wrestling they can do will definitely benefit them next season.
Come out to Hampton and cheer on the Saints as they compete in the Virginia Duals! Our first round match is against York! Support your Saints Wrestling team!