IR wrestlers improve with preseason scrimmages
With a few scrimmages under their belt, Indian River’s varsity wrestling team is preparing for the quickly approaching season. This past week, head coach Jeff Windish was able to see his athletes in action as they squared off in preseason matchups against Cape Henlopen and Middletown High.
“The scrimmages over the past week are extremely useful,” said Windish. “We use them to see where need to work. Coming out of the Middletown scrimmage, I saw a lot of improvement from our first one, and the kids are progressing well.”
This season, Windish will see the return of some strong, consistent wrestlers, including Max Wilkinson, Matt Selba, Phillip Bradford and Davontae Mitchell, each sharing the role of co-captain on this year’s roster. All four weighed in last year between the 130- and 171-pound weight classes, and will be filling out that middle portion of the lineup again this year.
“I think the strong spot of our lineup is going to be that middle spot, between 120 and 170 or so,” Windish said. “We have a lot of returners with experience there, and even our new guys have spent some time on the mat before.”
Some other wrestlers, including Toyana Knight, Joshua Lopez, Jalen Griffin and Rashaun Odom, will also be contributing after debuting on the mat as underclassmen last season. This year, Windish is looking for some of these younger guys, and others, to help fill out the lighter weight classes, which struggled with inexperience last season, and the higher weight classes, which saw four state-qualifying seniors graduate last spring.
“I noticed some really good things from our starters and returning guys in the scrimmages,” said Windish. “We still have some areas to work on, but you can really notice improvement already in terms of their technique and conditioning. From the beginning of the year, you work on getting into what’s known as ‘wrestling shape.’
“When you have to go full-tilt for six minutes on the mat, with pretty much no rest at all, there’s a special kind of preparation and training that you need, and our guys have been plugging away.”
Last year, the Indians saw several forfeits in the lighter weight classes, as wrestlers were not always available.
“We’re filling every weight class this year,” Windish said confidently, “so we won’t be giving up free points again. We want some of the guys with less experience to develop throughout the season and have those middle weight classes help carry the team.”
Next week, the season will get under way as Indian River heads to Newark High on Dec. 10 to kick off the schedule at the YellowJacket Invitational, a 16-team tournament that will pit schools against a variety of state-wide competition.
The following week, the Indians will again host the Battle at the Beach, a two-day tournament against powerful Delaware foes.
At the end of December, the Indians will head to A.I. duPont for the Tiger Classic, a 31-school tournament that welcomes competition from throughout the region, including wrestlers from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Delaware and Georgia.
“These tournaments are crucial,” said Windish. “You hate to describe them as a tune-up, but that’s what they really are. The whole month of December, with these tournaments and invitationals, is really gearing the guys up for the dual-meet season, which starts at the turn of the year.
“I want them to go into next week’s YelloJacket Invitational and do well, but I also want them to improve through the month. We can use these tournaments to gauge what each guy needs to work on. We want to be contenders by the end of the season, but we’re going to have to work hard to get to that point.”