IR wrestling finishes third among 17 in season tourney debut
Indian River’s varsity wrestling program kicked off the 2011 season with a powerful start, after finishing third, overall, out of 17 teams this past Saturday, Dec. 10, at Newark High School’s YellowJacket Invitational.
Seniors Max Wilkinson (152 pounds) and Davontae Mitchell (160 pounds) each sealed off first-place finishes in their respective weight classes. Both wrestlers, who share co-captain duties on this season’s Indian River roster, powered past St. George’s opponents in their final bouts on Saturday, Wilkinson with a 12-2 major decision and Mitchell scoring a 6-5 decision.
“We have high expectations for guys like Max and Davontae,” said Indians head coach Jeff Windish, who helped lead the team to a second-place finish last year in the District II State Championships.
“Going into a tournament like this, there are guys I expect to be in the final match, and those are two of them. In reality terms, you have to consider that we have some younger guys in the mix, and some things are going to have to go their way to advance to the medal rounds, but for our more experienced guys, who have been on the varsity team for a few years, they have that expectation in every tournament.”
Sophomore Jake Troublefield (182 pounds) earned a runner-up spot in his weight class, after advancing to the final match before falling to St. George’s Nick Dooley.
“You knew, watching these matches, that Max and Davontae both wanted it, forcing the action and setting the tempo,” said Windish. “And to see Jake wrestle the way he did was very promising, too. He battled through two tough matches against great opponents and found a way to win. He saw a tough competitor in Nick Dooley – a returning state placer.
“His first time in the finals could have gone a lot differently, and at the end of the match, he had a chance to close the gap. As a coaching staff, we’re really pleased with how far he’s come along the last few years.”
This season, Windish is looking for the strength of the lineup to come from the middle weights, a slight adjustment from last season’s roster, which saw the most success at the higher weight classes.
“We’re seeing some great things out of guys like these,” he said. “Max, Davontae and Jake are all right there. They are good practice for each other, and they’re going to feed off of one another as the year goes on. They push each other in practices. If you look at a team and see where their best wrestler is, the wrestlers just in front and just behind are going to be solid kids, too. Being in similar weight classes, they give each other good competition and force each other to work harder.”
In addition to those three wrestlers who advanced into the final bouts of the tournament, three other Indians progressed into the consolation round of their weight classes. Michael Zook (113 pounds), Phillip Bradford (132 pounds) and Davonte Waters (285 pounds) each earned fourth-place finishes in their classes in the consolation rounds, aiding the Indians to end the day in third place overall.
“There were definitely some matches that got away from us in the semifinals,” said Windish. “We made some mental errors that you can’t afford to make in these competitions, but it’s good that we’re making them now. We’re not going to be able to make those same mistakes later in the year, but our guys know what they’ve got to work on. We definitely saw a lot of things we liked in the tournament, especially from the younger guys in the varsity lineup. They really shined through.”
The Indians will not see any dual-meet competition until the turn of the year, but in the weeks leading up to it, they will have plenty to prepare them, as they host the Battle at the Beach this weekend and head to A.I. duPont in late December for the Tiger Classic.
“Going into the season,” said Windish, “we’re using these early tournaments to see what needs to be fixed. It gives us a read on what needs improvement. St. Georges and A.I. duPont, they are solid programs, but in these upcoming competitions, we’re going to see a lot more than two solid teams. When you start bringing in competition from Pennsylvania and New Jersey, you’re getting to a whole other level of wrestling. It will be eye-opening for some of these kids, but we want to put ourselves up there with the traditional powerhouse programs.”
In the practices leading up to the tournaments, Windish and his coaching staff are helping the team bring a ferocity to the mat.
“There are some technical things we want to work on,” he said, “but one of the biggest things is we have to be the aggressors in the match. You can’t be nice to your opponent. They’re not going to be nice to you. In these tournaments, you have to go in with a little bit of a chip on your shoulder and, essentially, be mean, be tough.”
Seven teams, including the Indians, will step onto the mat this Friday and Saturday, Dec. 16 and 17, as they host the Battle at the Beach. The team will get a break over the Christmas holiday before returning to practice in preparation for the Tiger Classic at A.I. duPont, set for Tuesday, Dec. 27, and Wednesday, Dec. 28, which hosts 28 teams from across the region.