While the dual score showed a Medford win Thursday night, the Lakeland wrestling team found plenty of success on the mat.
Four Thunderbird wrestlers earned victories against the Raiders as Lakeland fell to Medford, 46-21.
“It was a true team effort,” head coach Adam Bremer said. “Even in the losses, I feel like we had things that built off of what we were trying to do. I saw some things that I expected out of our team and I was incredibly proud of that.”
Working around Lakeland’s small team, the competing coaches worked together to build a lineup that would work for both teams.
“I appreciate coach [Tran] Brooks from Medford, when you don’t have a lot of guys it can easily result in a lot of forfeits, but that’s not good for the fans and it’s definitely not good for the wrestlers,” Bremer said. “Tran and I have been emailing back and forth for the better part of three days, talking about our lineups, who we were going to have, where were they going to be, and just doing our best to find the best possible match-ups that we could.”
The coaches succeeded, resulting in an exciting meet. While Lakeland forfeited seven weight classes and Medford won the dual, Lakeland went 4-3 in the seven matches.
“Every one of those matches, even the ones that ended in a pin, were tight throughout the course of the match,” Bremer said. “When it comes down to it, we made good match-ups.”
Lakeland did benefit from having a pair of Medford wrestlers move up weight classes.
Bremer said he spoke to his team about coming out strong on their home mat.
“I talked to the guys beforehand and said that one of the things we want to do is that when somebody comes to our gym, we just want them to know that they wrestled hard,” Bremer said. “If you focus on wins and losses, you get distracted from the actual content of the match. If you focus on getting that takedown, or making sure that it’s an aggressive takedown, those are some of the things that take your mind out of what’s happening and then you just start reacting from that point forward.”
Lakeland certainly took their coach’s message to heart, and came out with some fire.
“I thought our toughness was up tonight,” Bremer said. “It’s not that it hasn’t been there in the past, but I think we took it to a level that we haven’t been to yet this season in a dual, and I was incredibly proud of that and happy about that.”
The match opened with a pair of Lakeland losses. First, Alex Danielson was pinned by Jacob Stamos at 170, then Jameson Schultz was pinned by Jake Merrill at 182 pounds.
Bremer said Schultz, who moved up to 182 pounds for the match, had worked to cut weight to 170 ahead of the meet in preparation for the weekend’s tournament.
“The part of this sport that everybody knows but they never see how it affects the matches is weight control,” Bremer said. “We’ve got some guys that are trying to figure out their bodies and how they react to cutting weight, when to eat and when not to eat, and those are things that are challenging for a family.”
Bremer said he had the same experience when he was younger, having trouble ensuring his family he was healthy while making weight.
“There’s a part of the sport that some people aren’t happy about, but I really hope that people look at what we do on the mat and see that we’re not putting people out there who aren’t prepared to compete at a very high level,” he said.
For Schultz, Bremer said it was evident a lack of strength existed, likely the result of extra work before the meet.
“I think in Jameson’s match you saw a lack of strength, and I think one of the things he struggled with was losing a little bit of weight after school today before he had to wrestle, and it’s like wrestling a second match,” Bremer said. “If you imagine wrestling a guy on your second match when he’s on his first, it’s really tough, especially when he’s going up to 182 pounds and he’s really a 170-pound wrestler.”
Following Schultz, Lakeland picked up its first victory, a pin from Leon Stowe over Medford’s Austin Pippin at 220 pounds. Bremer was happy with Stowe’s aggressive attacks in the match.
“Leon’s coming out of his shell and he’s showing an aggression that I just haven’t seen,” Bremer said.
Stowe utilized a half-nelson to finish off his opponent, which Bremer said Stowe used with more authority than in the past.
“I’m used to watching him kind of take it and try it, and he dug on that guy tonight,” Bremer said. “His technique was mediocre, but his desire pushed that to another level.”
Stowe’s victory sparked a run that saw Lakeland finish out the meet with a tough match from Michael Holton at 113 pounds, then three straight wins from Matt Hanne at 120 pounds, Jake McClintock at 132 pounds, and Frank Scandin at 145 pounds.
“I think the team fed off of that energy when we starting coming back around to some of the lighter weights,” Bremer said. “They talk about getting on a roll, and sometimes forfeits can take away some momentum, but you look at the run we went on – Michael having a good match at 113, the win at 120, the win at 132, and that really just fuels Frank there at 145, I think that’s big stuff.”
Holton was pinned by Medford’s Josh Brooks at 113 pounds after a hard-fought match. Bremer was impressed with the way Holton came out strong after a month-long absence from the mat, and despite getting caught during an attack, was the aggressor in the match.
“He was very aggressive, he was shooting, he was challenging, and I was incredibly impressed with his effort tonight, and I’m very, very proud of him for that,” Bremer said.
Hanne followed by pinning Alex Zick of Medford at 120 pounds, reversing Zick who appeared close to pinning Hanne.
“I’ve never seen a kid who can reverse just about anybody from his back, but he’s the guy,” Bremer said. “You can’t ever relax against him because the minute that you do, he’s just going to put you to sleep and that’s exactly what happened.”
McClintock, then earned a 5-4 victory over Medford’s Preston Carlson at 132 pounds in another exciting match.
“He’s sitting there, he’s got 30 seconds left, and four points is a lot to make up,” Bremer said. “All of a sudden he catches for five with 13 seconds left and hangs on for that win, 5-4.”
Bremer said McClintock’s victory further proved that you can never take a second off in a match.
“You never know, in any situation, whether you’re on the top or bottom, you can’t feel safe in this sport,” Bremer said. “The minute you relax is the minute your opponent will get you.”
In the final match, Scandin pinned Medford’s Tanner Peterson at 145 pounds.
“Frank’s always fun,” Bremer said. “To watch his evolution has been outstanding. The control that he showed – and I think he had just about everybody in the stands about on the edge of their seat when it looked like he was about to tip to his back – but he didn’t panic, and I think that’s some of the maturity he’s starting to show as a wrestler. He’s starting to realize where he’s OK, what are positions that he can fight and stay alive in, and what are positions that he’s better off giving up points and living to see another day.”
Bremer said Scandin executed a perfect arm bar to secure the victory.
“He ran his offense from the top perfectly,” Bremer said. “He literally ran [the arm bar] exactly as we coach it. I was impressed and happy with the effort he showed.”
Bremer said the team will continue to do what they need to do to prepare for the end of the season and ensure they wrestle their best as they enter the postseason.
“When you talk about peaking, this is kind of the end of our long haul,” Bremer said. “We’ve had a lot of duals, a lot of tournaments, and we’re starting to get to the end.”
The team, as Bremer said, is a little battered at this point in the season, with five wrestlers currently injured.
“You never know what’s going to happen if you get a few of those kids in,” Bremer said. “The best part of wrestling is that you never know. On any given night a kid can catch.”
Bremer said that was the case for McClintock against Medford, and he hopes some of the energy from the dual will carry over into their next competition.
“If we come out of this and can keep any of this amount of toughness and energy as we go through – and we’re supposed to, it’s conference, sectionals and regionals – we’re going to have to wrestle at this level and be on this level if we’re going to have the success some of the guys have talked about at the beginning of the season,” Bremer said.
Lakeland traveled to Ashland Saturday for a tournament.
“It should be a good level of competition,” Bremer said. “Ashland has always been pretty tough, and they’ve got some pretty good wrestlers.”
As Bremer added, the team is happy not to have to travel as far as some of their recent trips, and is looking forward to finishing the tournament season off strong.
“It will be a nice stamp on the end of the tournament season,” Bremer said. “I think, more than anything, we’re going to go up there, butt heads, and look forward to a little bit of down time.”
See Friday’s Lakeland Times for full results from Ashland.
Jim Oxley may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.