The cold freeze has Jackson wrestling in a headlock, and the Polar Bears are desperate for a way to break the hold.

The cold freeze has Jackson wrestling in a headlock, and the Polar Bears are desperate for a way to break the hold.

As the team nears the end of the regular season and prepares for what it hopes will be a successful postseason, the latest round of winter weather to sweep through Northeast Ohio has wiped out the Polar Bears' preparations for upcoming matches.

Two days off school leading up to an Ohio High School Athletic Association Dual Team Tournament match against state and Federal League power Perry is not the sort of lead-up to a big match head coach Rocky Laughlin had in mind.

"It's really hard, and it's the second time in this situation this year," Laughlin said. "We dealt with it right after we came back from Christmas break."

Trying to keep his wrestlers sharp and on pace to make weight for upcoming matches is a tall task under normal cirucmstances, but doing so when school is closed and practice isn't possible is a near-Herculean effort for Laughlin.

Add in the reality that frigid temperatures and several inches of snow make getting outside or going to the gym to work out difficult for wrestlers, and the scenario is a nightmare for a coach.

"It's a double-edged sword because it's nice to have time to regroup, and a lot of guys had eight matches last weekend, so the time off can be beneficial to some," Laughlin said, "but trying to make weight and trying to do that without practice is tough for a lot of guys."

Three dual matches are all that remain for the Polar Bears before the sectional tournament Feb. 14. A rescheduled match with Lake — postponed during the cold snap that canceled school for two days at the tail end of winter break — and matchups with Perry and Canton McKinley are the remaining entries on Jackson's regular-season schedule.

Laughlin has mixed feelings about the OHSAA Dual Team event, which his team kicked off with wins over GlenOak and New Philadelphia. The tournament was added last season by OHSAA alongside the existing postseason tournament in which wrestlers compete as individuals but also earn points for their team.

"It's OK ... I have mixed emotions about it," Laughlin said. "You get additional points and times you get to be on mat without it counting against you for the year (in terms of the number of matches allowed), but the way they break down the regions, it's basically just us wrestling the Federal League again."

Negatives aside, the first two rounds of the event provided a much-needed opportunity for the Polar Bears to bounce back after lopsided losses to nationally ranked Perry and Blair Academy (N.J.). Jackson won just one individual match in the two contests, but Laughlin noted that it is difficult to draw many conclusions from facing two teams that are among the best in the United States. In the wake of the two losses, two dual-meet wins and a solid team performance at the Hephner Tournament in Austintown gave several Jackson wrestlers a chance to get back on the successful side of the ledger.

"We came off a long stretch where we wrestled really tough competition, and it wears you down, so we took last week and this past weekend as a chance to regroup more than anything," Laughlin said.

Seth Whitehead (120 pounds) placed second at the Hephner tournament, improving his record to 20-11 on the season. Senior Josh Bostic (25-9) added a fifth-place finish to pace the Polar Bears, with both of his losses coming against wrestlers who reached the finals.

With a 9-2 dual-meet record prior to the winter weather's intervention, Jackson has built a solid résumé despite its overall lack of varsity experience. With junior Justyn Bostic (29-5, 132 pounds) leading the way as he pursues a return trip to the state tournament, the Polar Bears are looking to heat up at the right time for a run deep into February.