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Lakewood wrestling more about technique than winning
Lakewood High School wrestling coach Tom OHara has nothing but optimism for his teams chances this year not so much for wins, but for personal and mental growth.
For OHara, success is more about developing well-rounded athletes who can win in good form and lose with class. His philosophy may be well suited for such a young team.
I like to be positive with the kids and not put too much pressure on them, said OHara, who was himself a collegiate wrestler at Central Washington University. I expect every kid who wrestled last year to have a good year. Some will have good year if they win two matches.
At Central, there was a lot of pressure to win, most of which was self-applied and that cast a damper on OHaras enjoyment of the sport. He doesnt want to recreate that environment at Lakewood. Instead he wants them to think beyond just winning, to think more about technique.
At Lakewood practices, he leads by example, joining the team in a series of leg lifts and push-ups. When they joke around, he laughs with them. But he also reins them in when hes teaching the importance of burying their heads into their opponents ribs and powering forward with baby steps when employing a single-leg; or using deception when trying to gain position for a double-leg take down.
The warm-up exercises are more about position, getting in better position to then make a move, said OHara who is in his sixth year as head coach.
With just three returning seniors and dozens of inexperienced underclassmen (and women) on the team, even two exchange students, Jasper Hauer from Germany and Oleg Chevychalov from Ukraine, the 2007 Cougar season will be more about rebuilding than outright winning. Some returnees such as Andrew Priest (160 weight class), Aaron Leonard (171 weight class), Nick Baker (135 weight class), Billy McKeever (152 weight class), Steve Bingham (140 weight class), Austin Schulz (152 weight class) and Keeley Caldwell (119 weight class) have potential to win and make it to regionals.
Schulz, a junior, may be a surprise this year. He or
McKeever, also a junior, will represent the 152-weight class. Both are fast and strong. But Schulz has been sidelined this past year, missing the entire season after having an appendectomy. He may be an X-factor for the team this year.
There will be some sleepers in there who will surprise people this year and Austin may be one of them, OHara said. It could be Andrew Priest, too.
Bingham, who is tall and wiry, has aspirations to go to state competition this year, and OHara thinks he can do it if the junior can use technique and finesse as much as possible.
I was talking to Steve at the beginning of the year and he said he had a dream he took third at state. I said thats possible but that he would have to get slick and to be slippery, OHara said.
This year marks Caldwells second year on the team. As a freshman last year, she wrestled several seniors and ended with a 15-23 season. But with those seniors gone, and with more experience, she is coming into 2007 with enthusiasm and confidence.
My freshman season was a really hard year and now Im more comfortable with how it all works, Caldwell said.
With three brothers at home, Caldwell has been wrestling most of her life. She is one of six women on the Lakewood squad. Her brothers are alumni of the Lakewood team, each having placed in state competition so the gauntlet has been set.
My brothers had been doing it for a while and they thought they could get me into it and they did, Caldwell said. Wrestling is just different from other sports. It lets you go places you dont think you can go.
OHaras primary goal the Cougars this year, with such a relatively inexperienced squad, is to get his team more mat time. As they get that time through practice and league experience, the team, he predicts, will improve. He said some kids will get their butts whooped and will have to decide if they want to continue. But those who stay on will help the team gather momentum and win matches.
Last year we were beating guys who stopped us early on, OHara said.