Wrestlers have to learn and earn their way to victories

January 24, 2020

Learn it and earn it - Most athletes who wrestle are not four-time state champions. In fact, most are no-time state champions over four years of high school. The sport is stacked with grapplers with freaky skill sets and others who go to tournaments all year round. But most who grapple like the discipline and challenges, not just the camaraderie inside a team but inside the sport. A wrestler doesn’t learn to accept defeat, but rather learns to profit from it, to deal with disappointment and hopefully develop humbleness in victory. The Cape 2020 team has nine freshmen and sophomores in the starting lineup across 14 weight classes. Many of these athletes are learning through trial by fire. Many good prospects can easily lose 25 matches their first year of high school. The athlete often deals better than the parent for the most part, and some parents just need to stay home because they can’t handle it. All athletes have athletic upside, room to improve and to get better. I’ve found wrestlers are young people who believe in themselves. The ref may slap the mat next to their head signaling, “Match over,” but they’ll be back for the next match. And that reckoning is what makes the sport work.

Westside Lances - Lance Abbott was a stellar two-sport athlete for Sussex Central. He played football and baseball. A great guy who’s friends with my son Dave. I spoke with him after the Cape at Central wrestling match. Lance’s son Gunnar, a sophomore, wrestled Carson Kammerer at 132. Gunnar has come a long way to crack the varsity lineup in one of the state’s premier programs. And Carson overcomes some physical issues. His dad Scott does color commentary on 302 Sports with Benny Mitchell. Gunnar chose teacher/coach Lance Keeler,  a former Sussex Central quarterback, to escort him on Staff Appreciation Night. Everyone loves Lance Keeler; it’s impossible not to. Anyway, all schmaltziness aside, I sure hope the “Yes” voters will pop up and vote in the Feb. 13 Indian River referendum. And why do I care? Because I’ve got friends in all places, and that includes teachers and student-athletes. Their good fortune is part of my own, so get along, little doggie.   

Basketball brawl - I have been in gyms where the wheels have come off the wagon. Fighting is always stupid and lame, especially inside a game. We’ve all seen the Kansas State versus Kansas basketball brawl on replay and YouTube, and it does beg the question, “Who are these athletes wearing our college uniforms?” I can reflect on spontaneous stupidity going back 60 years. I’ve never seen a fight at an all-day track championship. In fact, there is rarely any security. And here’s the thing about no-sanctioned fights – the better fighter you are and the dirtier fighter you are, the more trouble you are getting into. It is sickening when you see it and worse if you are in the same room. 

College roster - During downtime, I check college rosters in different sports just to verify athletes are still in place because sometimes they transfer or just decide, “This is lame. I don’t want to do it anymore.” If anyone has a heads-up for me about an athlete competing in college, please let me know. I am always interested. Also the band, by the way. It’s funny, the band plays but gets no play. I know the bands at Delaware and West Chester are both awesome. 

Take it to the house - I had business Wednesday morning with Athletic Director Bob Cilento at Cape High. Afterward, I  stepped into coach Chris Mattioni’s guidance office to say hello, then turned around and there was my grandson Mikey. I stepped into the hall during change of classes and met coach Shane Jensen and Mikey again talking to Shane. Then a few doors down, I did a stop-and-chat with hockey coach Kate Austin and Mikey showed up again because Mikey's teacher/coach friends are my friends too. Athletes like the comfort of seeing coaches in a casual setting; it’s that whole family thing. Trying to get out the house, I ran into baseball coach Ben Evick, band director Chris Burkhart, and football coach Mike Tkach. And lastly, there was coach Pat Woods and we stopped Dania Cannon and I talked about Kevin Perry being her brother Kevin Larkin’s grandfather. Effective leaders of student-athletes have to be in the building, otherwise you are just a drone pilot. Charisma is contagious, and so is caring. 

Snippets - Wrestlers call it a descent plan for weight loss. Just remember, it’s not about the diet you’re on, it’s more about the diet you’re off. I’ve lost 30 pounds in the last year, but I’ve also become Fruity Pop Pop specializing in mango and pineapple flavors. If the diet isn’t weird, then I ain’t interested. And stay out of the gyms. Lifting weights makes you more dense and heavy. Finally, don’t trust a scale that reads the bottom of your feet. Go on now, git!  

Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter