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Wrestlers stand their ground

Defensive strategy: Sophomore Genero Cabrera wrestles an opponent from Kirksville’s JV Nov. 29. The Bruins won the match with a final score of 45-43. Photo by Muhammad Al-Rawi

Wrestling coach Travis Craig has emphasized defensive technique. The team’s goal is to avoid take downs and pins by perfecting its defensive skills and outlasting its opponents on the mat through being in superior shape.

“We’ve been working on defense a lot,” Craig said. “If you’re in good shape and the other person is not in as good as shape as you — if you can keep the match close defensively by not giving up a lot of points at the beginning — that person is going to become a much easier wrestler to wrestle in the later part of the match.”

In wrestling, points are awarded for certain moves each participant performs. A wrestler can win a match with a pin by trapping an opponent’s shoulders against the mat for two seconds. Instead of taking an aggressive approach and attempting to get take downs and pins, this team wants to outlast its opponents through defense and earning points through defensive moves.

“We’re practicing a lot of defense so we can get points for sprawling, and we’re also jogging to get ready,” junior Andy Zhang said. “We’re just trying to get in the best shape we can.”

In order for this strategy to work they have to try hard in practice. Zhang said practices are tough right now, but the hard work will translate into the team winning more matches.

“We‘re defending more so we won’t give up shots so we can get more points,” Zhang said. That way “we’ll tire our opponents out and we can win easier.”

As the team progresses through its schedule, it will build upon the foundation of basic defensive techniques. From there the Bruins will transition to work on more detailed aspects of their wrestling skill set.

“At this point we’re not focused on just these first matches. Obviously we’re working hard trying to get in shape, trying to work on the basic technique things that we need to know for the foundation of what our wrestling team’s about,” Craig said. “After these first matches, we’re going to evaluate what we’ve done right, what we’ve done wrong and what we can work on.”

For senior Trent Johnson, who wrestles at 145 pounds, mastering basic defensive techniques during his sophomore year helped him to keep wrestling matches close. Even when he was up against a skilled opponent, it allowed him to keep the score close and give him a chance to win. Now that he is a senior, Johnson is passing those important fundamental skills on to the underclassmen.

“We’ve been going over basic stuff we all should know, teaching young guys some of the basic things too,” Johnson said. “We’re trying to really get our technique and our footwork back from being off in the offseason to get back on our wrestling track and the shape we need to be in to start the season.”

Johnson’s goal for this year is to win each close match in which he participates. He believes if he can do this, he will be satisfied with his performance at the end of the season. He has already started this winning in an overtime match in the team’s first dual against Hickman which ended in a close 28-30 loss.

The rest of the team has a similar goal. They want to work hard and get better every day. If they can do this, they will be satisfied with what they achieve.

“Every year we don’t set necessarily achievement goals. We don’t set out to win the state tournament or anything like that. We have guys that are good enough to do that, but our philosophy is that we want to go out and each practice each day and work hard,” Craig said. “If we do those things consistently throughout the year, then the achievement will take care of itself.”

By Thomas Jamieson-Lucy 

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