Ready for the Ring

Wrestling coach works with large team, plans on successful season outcome

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Senior Connor McCarrick wrestles Devin Graff during a practice last year. Graff said the most challenging part of wrestling for him this year will be cutting weight. “I don’t like it, but it’s something we all have to deal with every year.”

Alli Williams, co-editor in chief

Last year, various injuries, along with an outbreak of the flu, were to blame for taking a number of wrestlers out for their season.

This year, the wrestling team is coming back stronger and healthier than ever, wrestling coach Kale Mann said. Mann said he has high expectations for the team this year.

“We’ve got a lot of juniors and seniors who have considerable varsity experience,” he said. “We’ll bring back two State qualifiers and another placer. We had two or three other guys that were literally matches away from being State qualifiers last year. We’re right there on the bubble.”

Mann said his favorite part of coaching is the relationships he builds with the wrestlers.

“Wrestling’s unique because a lot of time the coaches are actually practicing with the wrestlers,” he said. “While there is definitely a distinction between coaches and team members, you get a little more of that teammate dynamic with the wrestlers than you do with some other sports.”

Senior Devin Graff said he has wrestled since he was 5 years old.

“My favorite part is winning,” Graff said. “I like going out there and showing people that just because I’m a little guy doesn’t mean I can’t win. In competing, you have nothing to hide because you’re wearing a singlet. You just have to go out and give it your all.”

Graff said his goals are to finish with a winning record overall and to get closer as a team. As far as personal goals, he said he would like to place at State.

“We’re always practicing as a team,” he said. “We’re always trying to get better.”

The team practices on weekdays for two hours doing high-level drilling, live wrestling, sparring and lifting weights.

“Because you have to enjoy it to do [well], it has a lot to do with mentality,” sophomore Ben Mullinix said. “Wrestling is a lot of work, but if you have the right attitude, it’s not that bad.”

Mullinix said his favorite part of wrestling is the individual aspect required when competing.

“It’s a fair sport,” he said. “It’s you, another dude and a ref. You can’t really cheat. It’s only you, so you can’t rely on other people.”

Mann said the biggest challenge this year will be working with what he said is likely the largest wrestling team he has ever coached — more than 50 members.

“With so many wrestlers returning, it’s going to be a struggle on my end finding the best place in the lineup for all the wrestlers, [as well as] organizing and orchestrating smooth practices so everyone gets the work they need,” he said. “[We don’t want to be practicing] here until really late at night.”

Despite the problems that come with having a large team, Mann said overall it will help them more than hurt.

“I think one reason why we were able to survive the rash of injuries we had last year without as big of a drop-off was because we had a lot of people on the team,” he said. “The numbers game really helps when everyone is working hard to prepare themselves. If someone is hurt, injured or sick and can’t compete one week, we’ve got another person who’s ready to step up.”

Mann said he is optimistic about this season.

“We could potentially go undefeated,” he said. “If we wrestle well, keep everyone healthy and get everyone in the line-up that needs to be, I think we could be challenging for a top-10 at State.”