Coaching the basics expertly

Published 9:50 pm Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I know there’s technique, strategy and a ton of hard work that goes into being a good, dedicated high school wrestler. None of that’s to say I understand much of what goes into each of those categories.

Other than snapping some pictures, getting a few quotes and writing up an article, I didn’t know what to expect last Friday when a couple of special guests from N.C. State’s wrestling team came to Lakeland.

Head coach Carter Jordan, and his standout senior, NCAA national champion Darrion Caldwell, conducted a team practice session for the Cavaliers Friday and a camp for wrestlers from all schools and of all ages Saturday.

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It’s well-deserved after becoming national champ, but I’m sure most of the young wrestlers were most interested in seeing firsthand just how quick, strong, agile, skilled, smart and expert Caldwell is. I was, too.

Of Caldwell’s many great accolades, stats and records, of course “NCAA National Champion” leads everything. Caldwell is also a three-time ACC champ going into his senior season with N.C. State, and his 28-0 career record against ACC opponents, at least to me, is almost as extraordinary.

It is fascinating to watch Coach Jordan teaching high school wrestlers.

It was also impressive to see how energetic and genuinely excited Caldwell was while he was in Suffolk.

It’s his summer break and, as he said in jest, he could have been relaxing anywhere else, instead of working with a group of high school wrestlers. But instead of being sorry he gave up his weekend, it seemed he couldn’t have been happier to be there working with the high schoolers.

I’ll admit, perhaps it was interesting to me because of my gaping lack of wrestling knowledge, but I especially enjoyed watching an elite-caliber coach teach technical aspects of the sport and make them straightforward and easy to understand, which certainly isn’t to say easy to practice or easy to perfect.

It’s one thing to know what the fundamentals of a sport are. It’s a really good coach who can make an athlete understand why the fundamentals are fundamental and why they’ll be so helpful.

The best example I can relate — and I’m sure the Cavalier wrestlers got much more out of it than I did — was how and why a wrestler’s stance determines so much.

While standing on the sidelines and taking photos of matches during the winter, I never thought, “Oh, look at that. That guy’s got an advantage now over that other guy because of his stance.” Apparently, though, the stance is that important.

Jordan coaches his collegiate, full-scholarship, high school all-state, ACC champion, nationally-ranked wrestlers about their stance every day in Raleigh.

That idea of getting the simple things right and right just about every time is not just important in wrestling. It’s true in every sport. Indeed, it’s a great lesson for life.