High school wrestling matches are, at most, 6 minutes long, and five matches in a day is the most a wrestler can have. With the rest athletes get between matches, it doesn’t look to a non-wrestler as if 30 minutes of wrestling should be all that hard.
Hillsboro coach Scott O’Hare knows differently.
“I’ve been involved in athletics my whole life, and there’s nothing harder than wrestling,” O’Hare said. “You’re using every muscle in your body, while in every other sport you can isolate body parts for certain things. When you’re done with a good, hard wrestling match, it feels like you’ve been hit by a train. Your body is absolutely spent.”
Such a grind could take its toll on O’Hare’s mostly young wrestlers by midseason, but he believes his senior team captains, Jon Carey and Jesse Meier, have the leadership traits to carry the team through.
“More than anything, it’s the attitude,” O’Hare said. “Wrestling is just a grind. It’s mentally and physically taxing. Having those two as our senior captains is going to help us tremendously. They’re both great kids, hard workers, great attitudes. They’re going to lead by example and also help kids hands-on.”
O’Hare expects Carey, who will wrestle at 132 pounds, to build on his junior season.
“He was a state qualifier last year at 126 pounds, a league champion, regional runner-up, and won one match at Hays at the state tournament against a state-ranked kid,” O’Hare said. “He’s wrestled against some quality kids, and he’s right there. He’s a great kid to have in the room, fun personality, always has a smile on his face until it’s time to go.”
Meier will tackle foes in the 170-pound division, and having fought through a 2½-month injury layoff last season, O’Hare said, Meier could see his work ethic pay off with a trip to state this season.
“He’ll outwork anybody,” O’Hare said. “I don’t think he’ll be put down if I say he’s not the most athletically gifted kid, but what he has he’s got from hard work and a mindset that ‘I’m going to beat you.’ That’s his mentality.”
Levi Mendoza, wrestling at 182 pounds, is a junior and past state qualifier who draws on another sport to succeed in wrestling.
“He’s got the toughness already built in because he’s a bull rider, so he gets some things other kids don’t get,” O’Hare said. “He’s going to step up and be right there with Jesse and Jon in leading the team.”
The Trojans have a large group of underclassmen, but sophomores Tristan Donaldson, Travis King, Tyson Reimer, and Nathan Simhiser have varsity experience from last year to build on.
Two wrestlers from Canton-Galva will wrestle with Hillsboro. Freshman Ian Alumbaugh has experience, while junior Austin Morgan is wrestling for the first time. O’Hare said he welcomes the chance to work with them and introduce Morgan to the sport.
“It’s tough, but he’s an athletic kid and exciting to watch,” O’Hare said. “As he continues to pick up on technique he could surprise some people. I’m really excited to see what he can do.”
O’Hare said he was pleased with the team’s progress through the first week of practice.
“We’re young and we have a few that are inexperienced, but we have a scrappy bunch,” he said. “I’m just excited to see the progress these kids make. It’s been one of the most fun first weeks of practice I’ve had in a while.
“They all seem to get along really well. They all want to help each other out. With the mentality of Jesse and Jon leading them in there, it’s just a fun group. If we keep our heads up through the rough times, this group will come out OK.”
The Trojans’ first match will be a double dual Dec. 4 against Halstead and Minneapolis at Minneapolis.