We had an interesting weekend (some good and some bad). A bunch of guys competed in the Messiah Open. Coach Owen and Coach Carr went to watch them. I followed the tournament via the internet. Our guys won several matches. It is great having them choose to go on their own. I like it when it is important to them to grow and learn. Blake Roulo won the Messiah Open. Six other guys placed.
Since we only had one dual on Sunday versus Bloomsburg, I chose to travel with 10 wrestlers this weekend. My reasoning seemed justifiable, but it did come back to get us in the end. My hope was we would not need a last minute replacement and if we did that we were close enough to get them to the arena in time. I figured it saved us money, kept extra guys from having to make weight, gave us more room at the hotel, and allowed guys to compete in the Open instead of traveling with the 10 starters. We were careful to check guys to make sure weight and health was good.
Late Saturday evening we did get a hint that we might need a replacement. We actually tried to get two guys to join the team in Bloomsburg, but they didn’t feel they would be prepared. Thus, we had to see if things improved by the morning. They did not, so we had to forfeit a weight class at the dual.
For those who know me, they know I hate forfeits and will try my hardest to avoid them. When I was in college, I convinced my coach to let me wrestle up three weight classes if we had a chance of winning the dual. Fortunately for me, we did not, so he did not let me step on the mat in the end. As a coach, I have had guys wrestle outside their weight class to avoid a forfeit, give an opponent a match, give our team a chance to save some team points and most often so it adds validity to our sport.
I know sometimes there is nothing you can do. On the other hand, if it is avoidable, I think you should avoid it. I failed to avoid it on Sunday. I was disappointed. I should have spent the extra money, had some guys sacrifice for the team, and explain more clearly my expectations to the team. I gambled and lost.
In the end I could only apologize to the opposing coach, apologize to the opposing wrestler, apologize to my team and hope we learn from the mistake made. We need to communicate better with each other and be prepared to compete with short notice.
I could be wrong, but I do not think using a forfeit as a strategy is good for the sport. If you can put someone on the mat, you should. I do not think you hold a guy out so the other team won’t gain momentum. I think you should have the courtesy of giving your athlete the opportunity, give your opponent the opportunity, give the fans a match to watch, and for the integrity of the sport. I think it would look strange to the casual fan if a football team only played 3 quarters, if a baseball team played 8 instead of 9 innings, if a bowler bowled 9 frames, instead of 10. Avoid the forfeit if you can.
There is risk in wrestling. There is the potential you could get hurt. There is the potential a guy could get pinned and momentum swings toward your opponent. I have even heard coaches want to sit guys because they think they won’t be competitive or would embarrass the team by their lack of skills. My answer still is avoiding the forfeit if you can.
I have told guys to be careful, instead of wrestling full bore, if I have put them in a risky situation. I have told guys they need to wrestle for the team and avoid being pinned as opposed to trying to win. I have seen guys try and compete and do it embarrassingly. Heck, I was one of those guys who had no business being in a division 1 match. I stumbled to get in my stance, my leg shook uncontrollably as I was trying to avoid being pinned, and usually I was pinned. I am sure some laughed at my lack of ability. I am sure the opposing team gained some momentum as the ref slapped the mat as I was pinned. Nevertheless, I am thankful someone gave me the opportunity to try. I am thankful there was a match, rather than a forfeit.
I felt bad a senior did not get a match in his home gym on senior night. I am sure he would have rather cut weight and compet one last time in front of his home crowd. Win or lose it would have been a stronger memory. Avoid the forfeit if you can.
We have been lucky in my time at Mason to only forfeit one time. I am sure we will have to forfeit again, but we will try hard to avoid it.
Overall I was disappointed in our performance on Sunday. Sahid Kargbo was the only guy to win. I was happy to see him win. He was able to beat a guy who had beaten him before. We had some other guys compete hard but came up short on the win column. My hope is they learned more than their opponent and will be able to turn the table at the conference tournament. We had a few others that did not show the kind of resolve I expect out of them. Wrestling is a tough sport. Sometimes the pain will be overwhelming. We need to be able to endure the pain instead of conceding to it.
After the dual, we stopped to eat as a team and so the guys could spend some time with their friends and family that came to watch them compete. As we sat in the restaurant, I struggled with the disappointment of the loss and watched with angst about the snow I saw falling to the ground. When we left the restaurant, we had to stop at our hotel because someone forgot their bag in the lobby when we departed in the morning (that someone was me). Our bus driver had a problem with his GPS and it sent us through the countryside on some crazy back roads. The roads were snow covered and we were on some steep inclines. We finally hit a hill we could not conquer. We were stuck. We could not go forward only backward. As luck would have it (the bus driver said it was an angel), a snow plow came our direction a few minutes later. I had to get out of the bus to talk to him, because we could not get the bus to stop rolling downhill when the driver tried to take off the brakes and put it in park. The snow plow had us back down the mountain road. Once he could get passed us he plowed a path and dropped sand so we were able to get back to a main road. We barely made it through the mountain road, but we did. Once we got on a main road, we were all much more relaxed. We made it home safely.
Jake Kettler will be honored this week as a Provost Scholar at a reception and at the home Men’s Basketball game. I am happy to see his hard work lead to this honor. It is great for him and also for our program to have him receive the honor.
We will wrestle a tri-meet on Sunday, February 16th. We will wrestle UVA at 2pm. They are having a great year. We will have the opportunity to get some upsets and help our chances of getting NCAA bids. After we wrestle UVA, we will wrestle Coker College. I was excited when asked to wrestle Coker College. It is a brand new program. It is exciting to see a program added to the college ranks. I am excited we can help them build their program. Their coach wanted to show they competed against D1 schools. We also agreed to return a date to them so they could have a showcase match on their campus. I hope to see a large group of fans on Sunday at our tri-meet.