Wrestle with this: As success of CHS wrestling team continues to grow, athletes share insight on physicality of wrestling


Veronica Teeter

Head to head: Wrestler and sophomore Jacob Smith goes against wrestler and senior Cameron Bacon during practice on Feb. 13. The wrestling team went to state on Feb. 16.

Jess Canaley

Not only is wrestling the oldest sport on Earth, dating back to cave drawings from 3,000 B.C, but it is also considered one of the most physical sports on the planet. According to LiveStrong, wrestling is in the top 10 list of most physical sports. Both physical and mental preparation peak during wrestlers’ six-minute matches, and adjusting to such a physically demanding sport is a challenge. For a seasoned wrestler like senior Cameron Bacon, the conditioning and practices have become routine; however, he said the transition from middle school to high school wrestling wasn’t easy.

“Middle school (wrestling was) a lot easier. The extent of conditioning (in middle school) was running stairs, and wrestling (here) is much harder because practices are sometimes twice a day,” Bacon said.

Wrestler and freshman T.J. Barrett said he agrees. As a middle school wrestler, Barrett said it was almost easier to win without relying much on conditioning, but now that he’s here, he’s had to make adjustments.

“Wrestling in high school is very different than middle school. In high school, everyone is better and technically stronger. In tough matches you have to rely on conditioning and skill a lot,” Barrett said. “The match length is different, too. In middle school, a match is only four minutes long, but in high school you compete for six minutes, which may not sound like a lot of time, but when you’re going all out, it feels like much longer.”

Veronica Teeter
Layering basics:
Wrestler and junior Jackson Mitchell gets taken down by wrestler and junior Garret Sharp in top drilling position. The position allowed Mitchell to have the advantage.

Wrestling Head Coach Ed Pendoski said high school wrestlers have to be well-versed in three basic concepts: physical, mental and technical.

“The stronger you are, the easier it is to have good technique. The better your technique is, the more confidence you have, because you know what to do,” he said.

According to Barrett, a typical practice for the wrestling team includes drilling, which practices up and down movements as well as agility, followed by live wrestling matches among teammates. Depending on the day, the team will have to participate in a finisher, a final conditioning task meant to challenge the endurance of the athletes. Bacon said the majority of the hardcore conditioning occurs in the preseason and during the months of November and December; however, coaches said they always exercise caution in deciding how far to push their athletes.

“The human body can only do so much,” Pendoski said. “We have to teach our bodies to go very hard. Those interval trainings we do (wrestling for two minutes, rest for one minute) allow us to put (wrestlers’) bodies in a spot where we can start going hard. The constant pushing starts to incorporate the mental part.”

In the wrestling room, Pendoski often refers to “junkyard dogs” or “assassins” when describing two opposite styles of wrestling. He said the style in which someone wrestles is just as much a mental game as it is physical.

“There’s something called the ability to grind. A push and pull. The ability to do these things is huge. Everyone is different in the sport. There are guys on our team who are going to come at you and they’re going to push and pull and make you uncomfortable. There’s other guys on the team who are more of the assassins. They’re going to move, and they’re going to pick you, to find the right places to score technically,” Pendoski said. “The foundation of our program is having simple fundamental skills that everybody has to have, then you take a person’s body, then you take his mindset. You have to have the gritty and the technical, but rarely is anyone fifty-fifty.”

Both Bacon and Barrett said high school wrestling is not only more challenging in multiple ways, but also a more personal experience overall.

“I definitely think you connect with your coaches. They all help  you, but there are some who focus on you more. You can always ask them questions, and they’ll always be down to help you,” Barrett said.

“The coaching is more involved, and they care more about us in general. Each coach gives each of us special attention in order to better ourselves,” Bacon said.

Pendoski said wrestling, given its physical nature and intense training, creates a community that lasts a lifetime.

Pendoski said, “The thing that’s neat about wrestlers is (that) you’re always a wrestler. You’re accepted into the group. It doesn’t matter if you’re the cool, popular guy or if you’re the kid that doesn’t have a friend in the whole school; if you can come in and do what we do, there’s a lot of honor in the wrestling room and in the wrestling community because there are very few who can handle the grind of a season.”