With overnight temperatures forecast to stay in the teens or single digits, Centre County High School wrestlers are looking to warm up. In fact, they want to get hot, red hot.
For 33 local wrestlers, that means grabbing momentum early in their respective regional tournaments and riding that wave to a PIAA berth.
“Most of the conditioning now is done in the mental game, your approach to the regional tournament, how to get ready for each match,” Philipsburg-Osceola coach Tim McCamley said.
“Usually, it’s whoever gets hot, whoever has a good tournament.”
The key to getting hot is to wrestle freely, loosely, Penns Valley coach Joel Brinker said.
“We use past examples, past stories of past wrestlers. The worst thing they can do there is tighten up. A kid who wrestles tight is a kid who isn’t moving on,” he said. “You’ve got to pull the trigger. You’ve got to let it fly. You’ve got to be ready to go, get to your offense, get it going and push the pace.”
For Brinker’s four Rams, wrestling at the PIAA Class AA Southwest Regional starts at 1 this afternoon at the Cambria County War Memorial in Johnstown.
For McCamley’s 10 Mounties, and four Eagles from Bald Eagle Area, seven Red Raiders from Bellefonte and eight Little Lions from State College, wrestling at the PIAA Class AAA Northwest Regional begins at 5 p.m. in the Altoona Field House.
Because these wrestlers have been banging heads with one another since early December, some coaches decided to change things up this week. They introduced some new faces to the workout regimen.
State College visited Bellefonte for a workout. Penns Valley ventured to Mill Hall to scrimmage with Central Mountain.
“You try to get some different looks, different scenarios, mix things up this time of year,” Bellefonte coach Mike Maney said.
“Any time you can get different looks it’s good. Sometimes you wrestle the same guys or group of guys all year long. We’ll see a lot of different styles. It’s good to mix it up, keep it fresh.”
State College coach Ryan Cummins said some of the focus was on in-match scenarios.
“At Bellefonte, we had a lot of overtime and sudden victory scenarios. They definitely know what to expect. It shouldn’t be a surprise,” he said.
Neither should most of the competitors the county’s wrestlers are likely to see across the mat. Most of the county’s teams schedule a wide array of opponents from across the state.
“One of the ways we set up our schedule is to have DuBois and Erie Prep come down to the Red Raider Rumble. By going to the King of the Mountain, we see McDowell and General McLane. And we wrestled Clearfield during the year,” Maney said.
McCamley and the Mounties did the same.
“We know most of them. With our schedule, we’ve wrestled all over the state. If we haven’t seen them this year, we’ve seen them over the summer,” he said.
For some, having wrestled, or at least seen, an opponent is reassuring. For McCamley, he said scouting first-round matchups isn’t worth a lot.
“If you do know your first opponent well and know what they do, you can practice against that a little bit. But your first opponent doesn’t get them anywhere. You just try to perfect what you do and take care of what you don’t do well,” he said.
Brinker, in a way, agrees with McCamley. Because the Class AA Southwest Region is so tough, the top five move on to states. So, one win is nice, however several more are required.
“Easily that region produces the most state placewinners year in and year out, and the most state champions year in and year out. When you say meat grinder, that’s what this tournament is,” he said.
The key, several coaches said, is to not think too far ahead.
“We’re just focusing on one message at a time, doing all the right stuff, getting mentally ready for it,” Cummins said.
“We want them to have a game plan going in, to know, I like to go for this takedown, if he does this, I’ll do that. In the second period if I take down, or I’m on top, what I want to do.”
And, as much as possible, the coaches want the wrestlers to develop tunnel vision.
“In the last couple weeks we’ve put them in live situations. We tell them to focus on one match at a time,” Maney said. “Don’t get caught up in all the excitement that comes from the fans.”