MOUNT VERNON — It was back to the mats on Saturday night as area high school wrestlers got a final dress rehearsal before the regular season kicks off.
The annual Mount Vernon Preview matches up wrestlers from different schools, giving coaches a chance to assess their talent and wrestlers some much-needed mat minutes.
Along with the host Mount Vernon Yellow Jackets, schools from Utica to Cardington packed the gymnasium at Pleasant Street Elementary School.
Mount Vernon wrestling coach John Brown said, “It’s great for the area. We have all the area teams, trying to showcase who they are going to have this year. I just think it’s a fun event.”
The East Knox Bulldogs have the numbers in terms of participation. They are looking to take things to the next level. This event helps his varsity regulars to tune up but, more importantly, exposes his young wrestlers to their first taste of life at the varsity level.
East Knox wrestling coach Keith Kauffman said, “It helps because of the mix of talent here. We’ve got experienced wrestlers, average wrestlers and kids that are just beginning. This allows us to match our kids to abilities. It allows for the new kids to get that adrenaline rush so they can breathe again the next time they wrestle.”
This is where a young wrestler gets his first taste of the speed of a varsity wrestling match against programs like Utica, Fredericktown and others.
“Yeah, it’s quite different,” said Kauffman, who has been coaching since 1973. “They find that out real quickly. I told them that it would be a blur when they got out there. I said, ‘Was I right?’ (they said), ‘Yeah.’ It’s just one minute periods, so it kind of gets them over the hump.”
Centerburg wrestling coach Mike Linkenhoker also has a young team with a few well-seasoned individuals on the varsity. Right now, he is dealing with injuries.
“Obviously, we are expecting a lot from Jimmy (Alexander) who is a returning District qualifier from last year,” said Linkenhoker. “I have a lot of guys banged up right now. I’ve got seven guys not wrestling tonight with injuries. Thomas Thatcher was a district qualifier last year. He’s out with a foot injury. Hopefully, well have him back next week. We expect a lot out of him again. Also out is Alex Hudson at 189. We’ve got at least seven or eight kids, who can win 20 matches this year.”
“When the coaches go back into the (coaches’) room, we try to set the best matchups,” said Brown. “We put experience with experience and lack of experience with lack of experience so it woks out real well. All us coaches know each other. We all work well together. We just try to get the best matches for the kids so they can get a taste of match before they go out into a match. We don’t want to see kids come out here and really get hammered. We don’t put someone, who has been wrestling for four years, against someone who is fresh. We want to try to avoid that if at all possible.”
The only incident of the evening was an arm injury to first-year senior Michael Catchel of Mount Vernon, who was down on the mat and attended to by a trainer and paramedics until an ambulance arrived on the scene.
“He’s doing pretty good,” said Brown. “His arm was broken right above the elbow. That was a tough blow for him. It was his first time out for an organized sport.”
Although rare, Brown understands how to deal with this type of incident.
“As soon as we expect that something happens, we don’t take any chances,” said Brown. “We keep him still and call the squad. There were three paramedics there already last night. They ran out to the mat and helped take care of the boy. They helped keep him still and not move. They kept him calm until the squad got there. You don’t want to take any chances. We kept him comfortable, and called his parents. His mom was already on the way. Those are the things we try to do.”
The regular season kicks off next Saturday with Mount Vernon hosting the Wazie Invitational. Utica, Centerburg and Fredericktown are at the Granville Invitational and East Knox travels to the Hamilton Township Invitational.