KINGSTON — It’s happened in the past and it’s going to happen again this weekend at Hershey’s Giant Center.
Wrestlers will get emotional. Tears will be flowing and headgears will be flying. And that’s after winning a state title.
After hard losses, when the dream of not winning a state championship has been realized, the same things will occur, showing that wrestling is one of the most passionate sports in which a high school athlete can participate.
“I think it’s those times when you’re alone, running, and those up-downs, push-ups and you’re thinking ‘why am I doing this? What’s this for?’” said Valley West’s Nathan Cheek, who finally realized his dream of getting to the state tournament by taking third last weekend at the Class 3A Northeast Regional Tournament. He shed tears of joy after three previous seasons of falling short.
“And in the end, the feeling you get when you win something as big as this tournament (Class 3A Northeast Regional), I just can’t describe it. It’s definitely worth it putting in all that time and effort.”
The drama is the same after a loss.
Just look at Cheek’s teammates. Fellow senior Travis Roper at 132 pounds, who qualified last season for the state tournament, lost his third-place match last weekend and missed out on returning to Hershey. Roper, a senior, took his third loss this season to Delaware Valley’s Jalen Palmer very hard, as anyone who realizes they won’t get to fulfill a dream would.
Another Spartan, Cody Cordes, a 160-pound junior, had already earned his spot to states when he lost his regional final by one point. But the loss still hurt the junior.
“I think he was just frustrated because he didn’t open up as much. He was a little hesitant,” Spartans coach Drew Feldman said. “I think he realized after the match he could win instead of going into the match thinking he could win. And after the match he said ‘I easily could’ve beat that kid.’”
It’s a roller coaster of emotions where one minute you’re on top of the world after a big win and just a few hours later could be curled up in a ball after an athlete loses the biggest match of his career.
Dallas coach Mike Richards said wrestlers have to temper those emotions by staying mentally tough in a sport that relies so heavily on mental toughness. He will coach two state qualifying wrestlers this weekend in 170-pounder Connor Martinez and heavyweight Ryan Monk.
“There are two mentalities right now,” Dallas coach Mike Richards said. “There are guys that are happy to get there and there are guys who want to go down there and win. I think I have two guys that mentally want to go down there and win. They’re happy their there but they didn’t go that far just to go that far. They want to go down there and win. Having that mindset helps you.
Sure emotions are shown when any team wins or loses a big game at any level. However, when it comes to wrestling, athletes are out there by themselves getting guidance from two coaches in the corner. At this point in the postseason, achievements have been made on two or three other levels already at sectionals, districts and regionals. Every wrestler sets a goal at each stage of the postseason and when that is reached, it’s the pinnacle of the season. But if it’s not attained for a senior, it’s the worst feeling.
“It’s peaks and valleys. You have periods of emotions one day for these guys now they have to come back down to reality,” said Dallas coach Mike Richards. “And they have to put a couple more days of practice in and do it again the next week.”
Martinez, a senior, has to face three-time unbeaten state champion Chance Marsteller from Kennard-Dale in Thursday’s Class 3A first round. Richards said both his guys are even-keel and he doesn’t expect much drama from them. For Martinez, who has a brutal draw, Richards said his senior’s mentality is why he can succeed in the opening match against one of the best wrestlers ever to step on a mat in Pennsylvania.
“I don’t think he really cares. Not because he doesn’t think he can win but because I don’t think he fears anybody whether it’s Chance Marsteller or anybody else,” Richards said. “He’ll wrestle anybody, anywhere, any time and that’s just his mentality. He’s not going to go out there any differently than any other match. …He’s never backed down from a challenge and he’s certainly not going to this time. And win or lose, he’s going to go out there and give 150 percent, I can guarantee you that.”