Success hasn't been difficult to pin down for Coventry wrestling this season.
The Comets, perennial contenders in the Portage Trail Conference and state tournament, have grappled their way to a 20-2 dual meet mark and posted three top-two tournament finishes. That résumé has head coach Keith Shinn and his staff excited about their team and its chances to continue the school's strong wrestling legacy despite its underclassmen-heavy composition.
"So far, we as a staff feel as if our team has performed very well, especially with an underclass-dominant team with only three seniors and three juniors in the lineup," Shinn said.
Along with a sparkling dual meet record, Coventry won the team championship at the Marlington Duals and posted runner-up finishes at the Pirate Duals at Cardington and the Coventry Holiday Duals, followed by an eighth-place finish at the North Coast Classic.
Shinn attributes the team's success to the strong bond between its wrestlers. According to Shinn, those close ties allow the Comets to feed off one another's successes on the mat.
" We seem to really rise to the occassion as a true wrestling family and embrace the team concept in a very individual-based sport. Each kid seems to feed off the success of one another, and they perform well during dual meet competition because of this," Shinn said. "They spend a lot of time together throughout the week, as our program requires a three-hour daily practice."
Four wrestlers have won 20 matches so far, with junior heavyweight Mark Weddell topping the team with a 23-5 mark that included 21 wins by pinfall. Weddell, wrestling at 220 pounds, gives up weight to many opponents, but that has not proven to be an issue thus far.
"Mark is a key upperweight on our team and always a threat to pin his opponent. He is looking at breaking the Comets' season pin record of 36 falls," Shinn said.
Sophomore Chris Cook (182 pounds, 24-5 record), senior Michael Fagan (152 pounds, 24-5 record) and junior Josh Gunter (126 pounds, 20-4 record) also have posted strong starts to the year. Cook worked extensively on his strength and conditioning leading up to the season, while Fagan has moved up a weight class each year of his high school career and relies on his technical prowess to succeed.
Gunter is a team captain and went 5-0 at the Pirate Duals to secure the 126-pound tournament title.
Coventry needed its entire roster in a match with Portage Train Conference rival Crestwood, with the match coming down to the final few individual battles. Shinn deemed the 34-29 win as the team's biggest victory to date, but there is much work to be done before the postseason.
"Our 20 wins are a total team effort," Shinn said. "It's a long season, and we are just about to the halfway point, so we as a staff have made a few adjustments to our daily training routine to iron out our suspected weaknesses and improve on our strong points."
Page 2 of 2 - Before tournament season begins, a showdown with perennial state power St. Vincent-St. Mary and a trip to the prestigious Bill Dies Memorial Tournament at Firestone High School will test the Comets further.
"These next few weeks will really tell us where we are at as our program evolves and what we need to focus on as we enter the post season," Shinn said.
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