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Central boys wrestlers will be more aggressive on the mat this season

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Central’s boys wrestling team includes (front, left to right) manager Kendra Whittle, Jamison Feickert, Jonah Burns, Braxton Bormann, manager Addison Amsden; (back) manager Millie Burns, assistant coach Tim Rupard, Collin Jaster, Preston Kulper, Isaiah Burns and head coach Joe Koehn. (Photo courtesy of Jarod Bormann)

By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register

 

It’s year nine as coach of Central’s boys wrestling program for Joe Koehn, and this season presents a set of challenges last year did not, starting with the loss of tone setting seniors Nick Deitchler, Daniel Royer and Nate Shirbroun. At graduation, all took with them experience, wrestling knowledge and leadership ability. 

 

In their absence, the Warriors are in somewhat of a rebuilding period, with a small group of sophomores and freshmen now being called upon to rise to the occasion. But this year’s expectations have not been lowered despite the influx of youth and a team that numbers just six, one of the smallest in Koehn’s career. 

 

Indeed, Koehn’s expectations remain high, as he touted the mantra “resetting the standard,” promoting an environment where everyone tries to achieve their best, forgo excuses when things don’t work out on the mat, fix what needs to be fixed and move on to the next one. It’s about “working your tail off and finding a way to get better,” Koehn said.

 

Trying to live up to those expectations is returning state qualifier, sophomore Braxton Bormann, who is expected to once again compete for a shot at state. Joining him are fellow sophomores Jonah Burns, Collin Jaster and Preston Kulper, along with two freshmen, Isaiah Burns and Jamison Feickert.

 

The wrestling program, like the majority of Central’s sports programs, utilized open gyms since April to prepare the team, some of whom have spent time together in the junior high program, while the sophomores return with at least a season under their belts. The gyms and practices are where the “cobwebs get knocked off” before the season starts, Koehn explained. 

 

It’s also where Koehn looks to build on last year’s success and give attention to what still needs to be developed, like improving from the bottom position and getting out of it by developing better techniques and moves such as reverses, switches, escapes and the hip heist. There will also be added emphasis aggressiveness during matches—to score points with a “keep moving forward” mentality. 

 

By focusing on this, the program should realize some, if not all, of their coach’s goals for the upcoming season. It starts with simply learning the basics of wrestling, like the high crotch, a fundamental offensive attack, as well as the double leg takedown and front headlock, and developing better set-ups and timing to get the takedowns. 

 

This should easily transition into the season-long goal of every athlete having some level of success, whether qualifying for state, winning matches or improving from dual to dual. 

 

One challenge for the team, especially given its number of wrestlers, is team scoring. Central will likely lose via multiple forfeits at each dual. How do you keep up a team mentality when the team simply can’t mathematically win? 

 

According to Koehn, the team-first concept remains important. To maintain it, wrestlers need to focus on each match, as something can be learned every time, even if one is sitting on the sidelines waiting for their turn to wrestle. 

 

The team concept is also important because it’s those same teammates who the wrestlers will be practicing with. The better they are, the more prepared the team will be for duals. 

 

The other challenge, related to Koehn, is adjusting the philosophy of the program and his coaching style to be more aggressive. In previous years, Koehn admitted the teams were more conservative, relying heavily on the fundamentals and lacking outside-the-box initiatives to take control of matches. This year, there will be more “high flying stuff,” Koehn enthusiastically said. 

 

Opening the playbook more should open up new ideas and opportunities, both in training and in matches, most notably by allowing more throwing, which is a high-risk, high-reward move. But it’s something Koehn wants the team to do more of this season. 

 

The aggressive approach is also an attempt to prevent wrestlers from falling behind in matches, get an early lead and stay on the attack, eliminating the potential to overlook avenues to winning. Essentially, it’s a “go for broke” strategy that will open the wrestlers’ repertoires, leading to more victories. 

 

This starting-fast, keep-up-the-pressure approach should be aided by the fact this year’s group, along with being coachable, hard working and non-complaining, is solid at scoring points from the top position and from the neutral position. They’re showing signs of being stronger than past teams. 

 

The only thing that could slow the Warriors down is the lack of numbers, which causes some issues in terms of practice partners. As a result, the team relies heavily on volunteers like JW Downs, Levi Lauer and JT Cunningham to get the team “ready to rock and roll,” as Koehn put it. 

 

“In wrestling, nothing is going to be given to you. Everything is earned,” Koehn said. 

 

This will be put to the test when the season begins Nov. 28, at New Hampton. The Warriors will follow that up with a tournament hosted at Central with Postville and Edgewood-Colesburg, in what Koehn hopes will become a yearly tradition, complete with a Tri-City Trophy on the line to be taken by the dual winner and stored in their trophy case until next year. This dual will take place at Central on Nov. 30, starting at 6 p.m.

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