Wrestlers hungry for another chance at state


Erin Schilling

Wrestlers work on rounds in the field house during an after school practice. Their first tournament was Nov. 14, but they had to forfeit four weight classes because the team didn’t have enough wrestlers for every class, especially with some wrestlers still playing football.

Erin Schilling, Editor-in-chief

“Honestly, no matter what the coach says, I wouldn’t stay in wrestling if it wasn’t for my team,” senior and four-year wrestler Nick Martin said. From daily two and a half hour practices, tournaments almost every Saturday and intense weight-loss techniques, wrestling is not a sport for the faint-hearted.

“Wrestling is one of those sports where you don’t get a Thanksgiving break or a Christmas break. You have practice all the time, everyday,” wrestling coach Burt Waller said. “The only day you have off is Sunday because we’re not allowed to practice on Sunday.”

The team practices by conditioning or doing mock rounds. Their workouts involve simple running exercises or more grueling, and potentially dangerous, activities.

Martin said that doing monkey rolls is the team’s least favorite. “There’s three people,” Martin said. “You dive, roll, and people hop over you. The issue with that is that you hit your head on the mat, people knee you in the face or people kick you in the head. If you hit the mat, you’ll black out sometimes.”

Martin said that a wrestler can sweat two to three pounds during practice.

“Our job is to prepare [the wrestlers’] bodies to wrestle for six minutes at a time because that’s how long a match is,” Waller said. “We push them harder than they should have to push themselves in a match so they’re better able to protect themselves.”

Waller is currently coaching football, so he hasn’t been in practice with the team yet. “We’re only practicing an hour and a half everyday because I’m not in there,” he said. “I’m letting them go early because I don’t want to put all that on my assistant coach.”

Right now, assistant coach Jason Allen works with the team members who aren’t still playing football. “There’s normally four or five guys from football, but we’re trying to recruit some other ones,” Waller said.

Senior and four-year wrestler practices with assistant coach Jason Allen during an after school practice.
Erin Schilling
Senior and four-year wrestler practices with assistant coach Jason Allen during an after school practice.

Senior Michael Runyan plans on joining the team after football season ends, and last year he almost placed at state. Runyan, along with Martin and seniors Donald Newman and Nino Young, are Waller’s key wrestlers this year because they’ve been in the program for four to six years.

Martin said that once a wrestler makes it through a season, he’s in it for the rest of high school. “Coach won’t let us quit,” he joked.

The team spends hours together every week. “[The team] spends more time with each other than they probably spend with their own families,” Waller said. The team travels to different tournaments around the state and spends nights in hotels and “learn to love each other because they’re together all the time.”

The wrestling season begins Oct. 26 and ends Valentine’s Day. Their first tournament was this past weekend on Nov. 14 at East Coweta, but the team had to forfeit four weight classes, including their two heaviest, because they didn’t have enough wrestlers. This means that they lost 24 points total, six for each class, putting them behind in dual format wrestling before even beginning. Waller hopes to fill these weight classes once football season ends.

“This early in the year it’s really about experience, just getting them mat time,” Waller said. “It’s not about winning or losses at this point for us.” He said that the first tournament came as a shock to the new wrestlers, but the seniors were already seasoned.

“I’m four and 0,” Martin said, “but I had two forfeits, and I think I was wrestling freshmen for the other two.” Martin is in the 113 weight class, one he said is usually reserved for younger wrestlers because most seniors aren’t that lightweight.

While the coaches want their wrestlers to perform well individually, they focus on dual format to emphasize the team’s score. Last year, they were runners-up in area dual and won area traditional, which is more of an individualized format, and Waller expects to do the same this year. The team also made it to state for the first time since Allen wrestled at Starr’s Mill.

For dual format, the top two teams from each area go to state and place depending on the amount of points they get during the state tournament, Waller said. For traditional, a wrestler has to be in the top four at area to go to sectionals and the top eight at sectionals to wrestle at the state tournament.

“The problem is that we are wrestling at AAAAA with AAAA numbers,” Waller said. “We’re at a little bit of a disadvantage, but they’re about to do reclassification. Next year, when we’re in AAAA, our team will be more aligned with AAAA teams. It’s not a great thing that we’re in AAAAA, but that’s what we drew, so it is what it is.”

But practicing for tournaments and making state are not the only component to wrestling. Each wrestler has his own plan for which weight class he wants to fall into. The strategy for wrestlers is to be as heavy as possible in a weight class so they have an advantage on their opponents. And this leads to cutting weight. “They have to want to do it if they’re going to cut weight because it’s a lifestyle,” Waller said.

The coaches don’t force wrestlers to cut weight, but they give out weight-loss programs to help the students trying to do this. “It all depends on their individual situation,” Waller said, “and we leave that up to the wrestler.”

Martin agrees that weight loss is a lifestyle and said that there’s definitely a right and wrong way to lose weight. “If you do it wrong, you’ll be trying to lose 10 pounds in a night,” he said, “which is actually possible.”

He said fruit and lean meats were important, and the wrestlers can’t have any unhealthy food, especially before matches. “The thing the team really enjoys is getting to eat after a tournament,” he said.

Some wrestlers will remain on a strict diet to keep inside their weight class with their hectic tournament schedule. Today, the wrestlers have a meet at Fayette County at 5:30 p.m. along with a Saturday tournament at Ola at 9 a.m.