LHS prepares mentally, physically

Published 10:41 pm Friday, November 30, 2012

Lakeland head wrestling coach Jamaal Jones is hoping to inspire his 2012-13 wrestlers to have confidence in a sport where the fear of losing can drive away young athletes.

It will be vital for the 2012-13 Lakeland wrestling team not only to win the physical battle, but also to win the mental battle that every wrestler must face.

Head coach Jamaal Jones described an aspect of wrestling that makes it difficult for athletes, including those who came out for Lakeland’s junior varsity team last year, showing promise to wrestle for varsity this year.

“Most of the kids that came out had the idea that their athleticism was going to be enough for them to win, which in this sport, it’s not enough,” Jones said. “Wrestling is a very unique sport, and it’s unlike football and basketball where you have teammates that can pick up the shortcomings of others. Well, it’s not so on the wrestling mat. Either you have it or you don’t.”

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Last season was a difficult year for the Cavaliers due to injuries as well as some of the psychological elements that factor into the sport. Jones was also in his first year as coach, becoming acclimated with the new rules after having been away from wrestling for some time.

“Last season, as a team, I think we may have won two matches,” Jones said. “We did better individually last year than we did as a team.”

This year’s varsity team currently features 12 wrestlers with six weight classes that are unfilled. Unless filled, these six empty slots will translate into 36 points forfeited to opposing teams in each event.

Jones is not discouraged about the upcoming year, though.

“This year, we’re looking to have a better season, for sure,” Jones said. “I have two athletes that I know of that I’m expecting to do well, have a great season this year, place in districts, and go on to regionals, place and go to state.”

Those two athletes are brothers. Senior Corey Hubbard will wrestle in the 170-pound weight class and his younger brother, junior Blade Hubbard, will roll in the 132-pound class.

“They are my two standouts for this season,” Jones said.

Additionally, he highlighted senior DeVante King, currently slated to compete at 145 pounds.

There are also a couple sophomores from whom he expects strong performances. One is Julian Taduran, who will wrestle at either the 126-pound level or at 132 pounds.

The other is Devin Harden, who represents the Cavs on both the junior varsity and varsity teams.

“I’m expecting him to at least place in districts and go on to regionals,” Jones said. “He has the potential to.”

The team will miss senior Craig Taylor, who is sidelined due to an injury suffered during football season and would have filled the 220-pound spot.

The most significant challenge Jones sees this year is a psychological one — the fear of losing. Jones hopes to inspire confidence in his athletes so they are not intimidated by whatever record or statistics an opposing wrestler has.

“Any given day, you can step on the mat, and if you’re technically proficient, you can win, regardless of who you’re facing,” he said. “But in order to do that, you have to have the confidence in your own skill-set.”

Lakeland may see its first varsity action at Woodside High School against Woodside and Hampton on Dec. 5, but Jones is awaiting confirmation of that event.

The Cavaliers are confirmed to compete in the Caroline Invitational on Dec. 8 at Caroline High School in Milford.