Inexperienced wrestlers take the mat


Annie Aguiar, Opinion editor

A chorus of shallow breaths from tired athlete lungs fills the room. The endless smack of teenager-to-mat is the only other thing anyone can hear while Hillsborough’s wrestling team practices.

But it’s what’s missing that is remarkable — experience.

After last year’s seniors graduated, the current team was left feeling the loss in “leadership and wins in general,” said assistant coach David Bravo with a laugh. “We were just 30-2 last year and this weekend we were 2-8, I think.”

Bravo, who has been an assistant coach for Hillsborough for the last 10 years and graduated from here in 2004, says that this isn’t an unusual occurrence. Head coach Michael Patrick disagrees, calling this a rebuilding year.

“It’s the first year in a while that we’ve had that.”

Today, they’re practicing takedowns. They pair up and two seconds later, one of them is pinned to the ground. But about an hour into practice, the majority of the wrestlers leave for a JV match at Steinbrenner, leaving only nine in the room practicing.

Philip Linn, one of the only freshmen left behind, says this is his first time wrestling in a school. He just started this month after years of wrestling with his brother.
“He used to put me in headlocks and teach me stuff,” Linn said.

But now the teachers are his upperclassmen; the more experienced wrestlers on the team take the time to show the newer members how to do certain moves or show proper technique.

Senior Ira Morris stops Linn while he is wrestling fellow freshman and first-year wrestler Jhett McCarthy.
“You can’t cross your feet,” Morris says.
Linn responds: “What?”
“Your feet are crossed,” Morris said. “You can’t cross your feet.”
Junior Connor Knauer cuts in: “Uncross your feet!”

Knauer, who has been on the wrestling team for three years, has taken on a teaching role; he answers newer members’ questions and shows them any moves they would want to know. He demonstrates the moves in front of a crowd of inexperienced wrestlers as he tells them how to do it.

“Now that there’s so many more inexperienced kids, experienced kids have to step up and help Coach out,” Knauer said. “It’s a challenge. I’ve never been here with so many new wrestlers before.”

Days later, Hillsborough had its first varsity six-way match. Hillsborough beat Plant, Jefferson, Blake and Spoto while only losing to Alonso.
“After a match, we tell each other what we could’ve done better,” says sophomore Michael Sullivan, who wrestled in the six-way. “I think inexperience leaves you with room to do better.”