The bus left Wednesday for Casper and the good weather had the wrestling coach wondering why they had left early. By Wednesday night Saratoga head wrestling coach Zach Schmidt had his answer. Schmidt said, “By about nine o’clock that night you could not see out the front door of the hotel.”
To relieve the extra time, Schmidt took the team to the mall to play laser tag only to find the business had closed its doors days earlier. The coach then kept his team loose by getting in some time at the hotel pool and getting in some workouts at the Casper Event Center.
While at the event center, the coach took the opportunity to dissolve any team jitters by saying “Take it in. When you get here on Friday the stands will be packed. It will be loud and these lights will be bright. But it’s the same mat we wrestle on at home, those are the same bulbs they put in the gym lights. It’s just a bigger arena now.”
Friday exits & optimism
Of Friday’s wrestling, Schmidt said, “Thomas (Ingraham) and Jaxon (King) ... Friday was pretty flawless for them,” but went on to add, “(for the rest of the team) the ball just didn’t bounce our way” to indicate some tough matchups his younger wrestlers faced with wrestlers they had not seen before.
Though much of the younger Panther wrestlers were out of the tournament by Friday evening, coach Schmidt showed obvious pride in his team.
The coach said he was excited to see Torrin Hedley and C.J. Boswell wrestle on Friday because they are both first year grapplers getting their first taste of the big stage.
“To go from wrestling in small gyms to that big arena and see the look on their face,” Schmidt said, “It’s not something that every kid in high school gets to do, compete at the state level in the event center. We told them just to take it in.”
While Schmidt indicated that he wanted to make sure the Panthers were always competitive, he stressed that improvements could be made.
“I thought Andrew (Everett) and Trez (Trezdon Martinez) wrestled really hard. Trez probably had the most unlucky draw-in in the tournament of any weight class.” Schmidt said, “He was a 20-win kid this year—which is not an easy feat—so when you look at his bracket and he is matched up against a 30-win kid and whether he wins or loses is matched up against another 30-win kid, that’s a tough drawing.”
Schmidt added that, “I think we peaked Tristan (Gray) a week too soon and that combined with nerves of state and the nerves of ‘I’ve never seen these guys wrestle’ kind of led to an early exit from him.”
Of Everett, Martinez and Gray, coach Schmidt said, “We are looking for big things from these three next year.”
Schmidt looked to encourage his younger players who had lost their Friday matches saying “this can make or break you now, you can go to camps with us over the summer and we can get you on a weight lifting program. Go compete in track, go compete in football or cross country, but you have to compete. You have to constantly be working towards these (championship) goals.”
King rebounds to place
“For Jaxon to place fifth, and I know it was kind of an expectation of his to place at tournament, there wasn’t going to be anything guaranteed at 120 pounds,” Schmidt said, “He spent the summer doing a lot of work to get ready to … do the student exchange thing—which meant he didn’t have a whole lot of time for camp and lifting. Then to come back prior to the wrestling season starting and trying to get out on the mat—not to mention we lost him for like a three-week span because of illness and injury … Trying to come back from that is hard.”
Schmidt was visibly impressed with the Jaxon’s rebound though. “For him to show up like he did on Friday … first round he did well on getting himself loose and working on some things.” Schmidt continued, “But the emotional win he had in the second round against a kid who had beat him three times this year, it was impressive.”
He ran into a kid in the semifinals which the ball could have fallen either way. It has with those two before.
Same way Saturday morning that kid from Kemmerer that he wrestled. It’s gone both ways all year. We had a couple of errors in that match that led a couple of points for that kid. Ultimately when you lose by one, you sit back and reflect and go hmm. we probably should have changed that.”
He bounced back for the fifth/sixth place match pinning the kid from Glenrock he had beaten the day before.
“That’s a good way to end the season,” Schmidt said.
A whole different level
Speaking on Thomas Ingraham, Schmidt glowed saying, “Thomas was on a whole different level this weekend.”
That was evident by the unbeaten weekend. Ingraham wrestled four times over the weekend beating his first challenger in a 0:44 second fall, his second opponent from Hulett in a 10-4 decision, his third wrestler from Glenrock by a 11-4 decision and taking Moorcroft’s Rowdy Pfeil in a7-4 decision for the 152 pound division championship.
While sad to see senior Ingraham leave, coach Schmidt seemed excited at the prospect of having his newly-experienced wrestlers returning next year along with a crop of USA wrestlers who he says have been really well trained. He also looks forward to getting in some summer training in preparation for the grappling to come.