Cavalier wrestlers working through the summer

Published 10:07 pm Wednesday, July 8, 2009

In previous years for Lakeland’s wrestling team, during the offseason, the team’s wrestling room was also used as a classroom. Under head coach John Bostwick, who’s entering his third season coaching the Cavalier program, the wrestling room is still part-classroom, but it’s 100 percent for learning about wrestling.

“Now the wrestling room is used 12 months of the year. It’s unusual if there’s not someone in here every week,” Bostwick said during a morning training session at the school on Tuesday.

A few days prior, Lakeland had 12 wrestlers travel to Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pa., to take part in a camp that included 26 teams from six states and more than 500 wrestlers.

NCAA champions and U.S. Olympians were some of the instructors, as the camp was partly about teaching the technical aspects of the sport to the high school athletes and partly a chance for a lot of competition during the normally-quiet summer months. Lakeland wrestled in 15 dual meets in four days and finished with an 11-4 record.

“I’m pretty happy,” said Bostwick, “we have a young team. We had some freshmen and even some seventh graders with us.”

The Cavaliers had a great deal of individual success, led by Alex Sari who won his 160-pound class. Aaron Benwell was runner-up in his weight class. Lance Smith and Chase Rice finished third. Trey Freeman and Colin Rice finished fifth.

“We got to wrestle people with different styles and techniques, guys who have different strengths,” said Sari. “A lot of the kids were pretty strong, so it’s a very good experience.”

“It shows me I’m close, but to get there I need to work that much harder,” said Smith.

Both Sari and Smith started wrestling in the eighth grade, later than many of the opponents they face in meets against high schools that get new wrestlers who’ve come up through clubs or middle school teams.

Working throughout the offseason, said Smith, “it’s helping us catch up to the other guys.”

“Now is the time to work on technique. During the season, we’re so busy with conditioning,” said Sari, who said in three hours worth of work in the summer, most of that can be spent on technique. In a three-hour practice during the season, about two hours is spent on conditioning, said Sari.

There is still plenty of tough conditioning work, specifically out on the track at Lakeland with “buddy carries” and three-mile runs.

It was the second summer the Cavaliers have gone to the camp, and the experience from last year paid off in a big way this time around. Mainly, Bostwick said, his wrestlers learned the value of being in shape before heading to the camp.

“If you don’t go to camp in shape, you’re probably not going to learn as much, because you’re just going to be tired.

“And no one got hurt, I think that’s because of the amount of work we’ve been putting in,” said Bostwick.

Even the setbacks in the dual meets were positives to build on, which was what the camp was really all about, anyway.

“We lost two meets by one match. We lost one meet on criteria, and we lost a meet by about four matches to Camden (N.J.), which is a program which competes in the Virginia Duals and is always one of the top 20 or so teams in the nation,” said Bostwick.

The Cavaliers have a clear goal for next season. “We want to be the first team (in Suffolk) to put a trophy in our case,” said Bostwick. “A trophy” means a top-three finish in the Southeastern District.

Looking back to the state of Lakeland’s wrestling program three or four seasons ago, it would be a major feat. So if someone, for instance, doesn’t feel very energetic about a three-mile run one morning, said Sari, “the coaches remind us a lot about what this program used to be like. So we definitely remember it.”