We went to Boston University over the weekend to compete in the CAA Championships. We traveled via air. I was surprised most of the guys on the team have not traveled much by air. It made the trip more enjoyable. We were fortunate our flight was not canceled as we flew into a snow storm. Other teams had tougher travel.
We finished in last place overall, which is never fun. I had hoped we had made enough progress during the year to close the gap on other teams. We did improve, but are still behind. In my two years at Mason we have yet to win a conference dual. I find that disheartening. On the negative side, we were 8-20. We only had 3 placers, no champs.
On the positive side, we were more competitive this year. In 2012, we had 3 guys win matches at the conference tournament. This year, we had 6. In other matches, we were more competitive. We lost some close matches and in others were able to hold our ground better. We scored 6 bonus points (2 pins and 2 majors). If you look squarely at what we were expected to do on paper (seeds and ranking), 8 guys wrestle at or above their pre-tournament ranking. We had 2 guys who probably wrestled below. Thus, on paper, we had a much improved tournament.
For the most part, I was pleased with our effort and attitude. Guys wrestled hard. It is hard to see guys fall short of their goals. The more you have put into something, the more it hurts when you don’t get it. Tears were shed on Saturday night. It was a tough night.
The 3 seniors that wrestled in the tournament are now dealing with the questions of “what now?” I know it is a tough time for a college wrestler. There is no next year. There is no second chance. Rich Lavorato and Jaaziah Bethea both finished 4th place, both guys were unseeded, scored bonus points and placement points for their team. I know both wanted more and planned on wrestling next week at the national tournament. Nevertheless, they contributed to their team. Ty Knepp did not place, but he went down swinging. I think when you compete as hard as you can it is easier to walk away with no regrets.
A few years ago, Jayson Ness taught me a great lesson. He had just lost in the NCAA finals his sophomore year. I was fuming and freighting over his loss. I wanted him to win badly. I was angry that he did not win. When we were walking off the arena floor and into the tunnel, he turned to me and said, “I wrestled as hard as I could. I tried my best. I guess God had a different plan for me.” At that moment, I was ashamed at my attitude. Jayson’s perspective and attitude helped me grow that night as a coach and person. If you truly give your best effort and have a great attitude, you can walk away with no regrets.
Jake Kettler wrestled a good tournament. He won by pin in his quarter-final match. In his semi-final match, he won 9-2. The guy he beat in the semi-finals had beaten him earlier in the year. In the finals, he came up short.
Since there was only one qualifier at his weight class, he did not automatically qualify for the national tournament. Thus, we have spent a few days awaiting the committee’s decision on the at-large entrants at his weight class. I also delayed posting my blog until we knew the decision. I was very happy when we saw his name on the list of competitors.
We crunched the numbers and thought Jake deserved to be in, but until you see it, you don’t know. I am happy Jake is fulfilling a dream. The waiting has been tough, but now we need to focus on getting him physically and mentally ready to compete. It is a great problem to have.