WHITEHALL – For perhaps the first time since the wrestling season started, it wasn’t all about wins and losses.
The Whitehall wrestling team hosted Deer Lodge and Jefferson for a mixer on Tuesday night with wrestlers hoping to put the finishing touches on what’s already been a grueling regular season.
Tuesday’s mixer provided some wrestlers the chance to go up against other competition, while others got the opportunity to try out new things.
With the countdown to the Class B/C Divisional tournaments now measured in days instead of weeks, coaches are hoping to have their respective wrestlers’ moves in place.
And their heads.
Deer Lodge, a budding program that had just one wrestler last season, sent four to the mat on Tuesday. While the Wardens have continued to show steady improvement through the season, head coach Clint Stevenson said that the wrestlers need to work on the mental aspect of the sport.
“Right now we’re just trying to work on our attitudes a little bit,” Stevenson said after watching his wrestlers go winless during Tuesday’s mixer. “We’ll have good matches where we seem to be really fired up and ready to go, and then we have some where we’re a little lackadaisical and not quite as ready.
“We’re trying to work on that, trying to get them to wrestle at their highest level. It’s that time of the year. That’s what we’re really working on.”
He’s not alone.
Whitehall went into the mixer hoping to work on some new things but the main focus had more to do with the mental preparation.
“Wrestling is such a mental sport and there is so much psychology involved with it,” Whitehall assistant coach Steve Sacry said. “We really try to work through some of that with them.
“I think the next couple of weeks are (about) getting them mentally ready. That’s going to be some of our focus as well as continuing our technique.”
The technique part of it seems to be right on schedule for the Trojans. Whitehall wrestlers lost just three of 11 matches on Tuesday night, with freshman Mike Wilkinson and sophomore Connor Johnson each winning both of their bouts.
Dawson Hoerauf had just one bout but came away on top.
“We’ve got several who I think will do really well,” Sacry added. “Dawson Hoerauf has been solid and sound all year. He’s very dependable, he always works hard and he does a real good job. He’ll do well the next couple of weeks and at state in particular.
“Connor Johnson wrestled a couple of matches (Tuesday). He’s kind of under the weather and not feeling real well but he has such good technique that he didn’t need all of energy and strength to get the same results.”
Senior 145-pounder Braxtyn Armstrong missed the mixer due to personal obligations but he’s another one that will carry high expectations into the postseason.
Jefferson’s trip through Whitehall was a success in that head coach Troy Humphrey had most of his team back.
“The last couple of weeks we wrestled with eight guys each weekend, and we have 17 on the team,” Humphrey said. “We’ve been sick and beat up so it was nice. We had 14 (on Tuesday) but that’s a lot better than eight.
“It was nice to have a big squad again and have people back and get healthy. And it’s coming at the right time.”
The Panthers sent 14 wrestlers to the mat on Tuesday and came away with 10 wins. Nick Workman (205 pounds) was the only one to go twice and won both.
“Nate Brunett at 160, Nathan Rasch at 285 and Nick Workman at 205 are doing well,” Humphrey said. “Derek Nygaard at 145 is really wrestling well for us. He’s a freshman and he’s doing well. We’ve got another freshman at 120 pounds, Cody St. Clair, that is wrestling really well too.
“It’s about where I expected us to be but we kind of took an end-around to get there because we were so beat up for a while.”
Humphrey then repeated the theme of the night, hoping to get his wrestlers tougher mentally in the next two weeks.
“Thursday we have another mixer but after that we’re taking the weekend off and next week we’re going to work on the mental aspect of what it takes in the postseason,” he said. “We’re getting there. Physically, we’re getting there but mentally we’ve got a little ways to go.”