December 07, 2011 - By Gabriel Ouzounian
Sophomore Charlie Highlen holds junior Juan Leon to the ground during pre-season drill sessions. Photo by G. Ouzounian (click for larger version)
Review Staff Writer
Team depth is deceptively important in many sports - those lacking it often do worse than appearances convey.
Fortunately, Lake Orion's wrestling team will not have to worry about filling the ranks for the 2011 season.
It has been one of those preseasons when one can tell the team is going to be filling out pretty nicely," said Head Coach Corey Kuzinski, in his eleventh year with the program and third year as head coach. "You want your best guys kind of spread out in the weights and that's pretty much what we got. On top of that, we've got a lot of veteran leadership and young talent."
Wrestling, while there are individual matches, scores more like a team sport. Each of the 14 weight classes (103 lb. to 285 lb.) are assigned to a member of the squad. The boys can be switched to a weight class up or down at any point before they wrestle. Decisions to switch out team members is a task assigned to the head coach and, according to Kuzinski, is a good deal more complicated than it seems.
During the match itself, however, it is all a points game.
"The team score is based on individual match scores and coming out with points may not always be possible or even the goal of a wrestler," said Kuzinski. "If a wrestler wins by fall or pin, he earns six points for the team, but if they get a tech fall (winning by 15 points) they get five team points for the team. If they get a major decision (winning by eight points) it's four points and a decision (three or less points) is three points.
"We have someone in each weight class who is ready. Even if these guys don't win, if they can prevent someone from getting more points by not getting pinned, you can help win for the team."
Of the 45 members of the team, notable returners include senior John Atwater (140 lb., 27-17 in 2010) who is the last remaining varsity member of the 2009 state semifinal team. Kuzinski called Atwater a different wrestler than when he began his freshman year, instead now being someone "you count on to score points."
Others include senior Cam Masters (130 lb., 34-18 in 2010) who is in his second full year of varsity, sophomore Charlie Highlen (125 lb., 33-23 in 2010) who is a returning state qualifier and junior Ethan Gros (160 lb., 55 career wins) who is a returning county wrestler, having placed as a freshman and a sophomore and has maintained the same weight class which helps with seeding.
One senior, Mac Boyer, has spent his previous years with the varsity team wrestling two weight classes higher than his own.
"Last year he wrestled in the 285 lb. for us and only weighed 190 lb. - just enough to put him above the 185 lb.," said Kuzinski. "He's really motivated about his senior year because he will be in the 215 lb. class like he's supposed to. Last year he had 15 wins and 20 loses which, when considering he could be wrestling kids 100 lbs. heavier, isn't bad."
The solitary freshman on the team is A.J. Shepard (112 lb.)
In comparison to last year, Kuzinski is more confident of how the boys will perform. Preparations for the 2010 season were hampered by the football state championship run.
Kuzinski said competing in the OAA Red Division will offer some real "dogfights," but its non-league matches should offer opportunities to put up "big numbers."
"There are really no weak links in our league," said Kuzinski. "I can see finishing from third to sixth depending on our health and how much we progress. No one is beating Oxford though, he said.
"As the club builds itself back up we want to start winning, but right now we're concentrating on making every guy in my room a better wrestler by the end of the year."
First up for the Dragons is Flint Kearsley on Dec. 7. Kuzinski said his team will simply try to run straight through them and see what happens.
The Dragons were 22-13 in 2010.