Sacrifice. Discipline. Hard work. Hillsboro High School head wrestling coach Scott O’Hare said these are the staples of most winning high school wrestlers. Every few years there will be a grappler blessed with incredible physical gifts who can win without an established work ethic … until he meets a talented wrestler with technique.
The physical requirements to wrestle are immense. Wrestlers must build cardiovascular and muscle endurance. Hillsboro junior Preston Nelson can speak to the need for endurance. O’Hare said Nelson has the strength, agility, and aggressive nature suited to be a great wrestler. However, he started last season late and never caught up with his conditioning. Starting in the first week this season, O’Hare said Nelson should be ready this season for matches at either 138 or 145 pounds.
“In matches, he would come out blazing,” O’Hare said. “But then he ran out of gas.”
There are mental rigors to wrestling as well. At practice on Nov. 14, O’Hare and assistant coaches Jake Schenk and Terach Antoine went through fundamental takedowns meant for when a leg is grabbed successfully. Within that instruction were notes to apply pressure with the head and shoulders to enable wrestlers to use a proper amount of leverage. O’Hare wants all of that to be natural when matches start; to new wrestlers it seems very unnatural now.
Many of the Trojans are not new to the team. O’Hare said even the high schoolers that have been wrestling with him since Hillsboro Kids Club often wonder the need to go through the simplest techniques at the beginning. One wrestler, who paid attention despite his experience, was Tanner Jones.
Beginning his senior year, Jones was one of two Hillsboro wrestlers to advance to the state tournament last season. After tasting that success, O’Hare said Jones is looking for any small clues, a trick or two, to allow him take another step forward and place at Hays as a 160-pound grappler.
“Tanner does exactly what he needs to,” O’Hare said. “He’ll take any advantage he can get out of the wrestling room.”
Mental toughness is more important over an entire season. O’Hare is expecting good seasons from sophomores Jon Carey and Jesse Meier.
Powerfully built with short stature, O’Hare expects Carey to wrestle at 120 pounds this season. O’Hare marveled at Carey’s motor. He said the work ethic is in place for Carey to excel. In many matches last season, O’Hare said Carey’s energy would override proper technique and a potential scoring move would quickly be countered into points for an opponent.
“He did some things and looked really slick, but he gave up position and he didn’t get the take down,” O’Hare said.
With fewer wrestlers than the past two seasons — he only has 12 this season — O’Hare had Carey and Meier, 152 pounds, wrestling more on varsity than he would prefer. Both wrestlers struggled in their first high school season and ended the year with losing records.
Instead of contemplating whether to continue with the sport in the offseason, Meier decided to continue and wrestle in the spring with the Hillsboro club team. Meier turned a corner in the club state tournament, winning multiple matches and holding his own against some of the best wrestlers in the state in his age group.
“When I ask them to do something, they’re going to do it as hard as they can,” O’Hare said of Carey and Meier. “They’re going to be nice leaders for us down the road because of work ethic.”
O’Hare understands that staying with the sport is difficult when wrestlers are learning it. Two freshmen listed at 182 pounds, Zac Gharemanzadeh and Levi Mendoza, started wrestling as seventh graders. They struggled mightily their first season. Last season, Mendoza only lost one match and Gharemanzadeh improved leaps and bounds. They may be faced with a similar situation this season and O’Hare will try to keep their confidence up as much as possible.
“If we can hold on to them long enough, they’re hooked,” O’Hare said.
Besides Jones and Nelson, there are three other experienced wrestlers poised for success.
Junior Cody Delk and freshman Austin Cross are mismatched in age but similar in terms of height and length. Delk is over 6 feet and listed to wrestle at either 145 or 152 pounds. Cross is about 6-4 and O’Hare wants him to wrestle at 138 pounds. Delk has wrestled with Kids Club. Cross comes to Hillsboro with a youth wrestling background in several locations in Kansas and Ohio. O’Hare wants to drill each wrestler to use a considerable advantage in length.
“Me and coach Schenk both ended high school career at 160,” O’Hare said. “We both hated wrestling taller lanky wrestlers.”
While Cross and Delk are about equals, Tyrell Thiessen stands alone, even with two other 285-pound wrestlers on the Hillsboro roster, junior Matt Reeh and sophomore Dermot Morey. In his first year wrestling in high school, Thiessen advanced to the state tournament and won a match.
Thiessen possesses exceptional quickness for his weight, giving him an advantage against most wrestlers in his class. O’Hare said the onus for Thiessen is twofold. The first is to continue to build a solid foundation of technique.
“Every year he’s been in high school his work ethic has improved,” O’Hare said.
The second point of emphasis is keeping Thiessen healthy over the course of an entire season. Thiessen struggled last season with small injuries and illness. He begins his senior campaign with a nagging ankle injury incurred in the last game of football season.
The wrestling season begins Thursday with a home dual meet with Halstead and Minneapolis. The first major tournament is Dec. 8 in Hesston.