When Heath Ledger delivered a memorable performance at the Joker in “The Dark Knight,” he famously asked the question, “Why so serious?”

MOGADORE   When Heath Ledger delivered a memorable performance at the Joker in “The Dark Knight,” he famously asked the question, “Why so serious?”

Mogadore senior offensive lineman Seth Slabaugh carries that same serious mindset into his work in the weight room, the latest in a growing line of Wildcat linemen who used lifting to add major weight to their frame in order to compete against biggest, heavier foes.

“I’m super serious since we started, the week after football ended, that when I turned it on, but I’m trying to get all of these other guys right now to turn on with me,” Slabaugh said. “It’s kind of been the struggle all winter and spring because none of them are taking it as serious as me over the winter, but I’ve been serious since day one. I’m trying to be serious, but at the same time we don’t want to be too serious and burn them out.”

Slabaugh cited Jeremiah Sanders, a senior leader on last season’s state runner-up team, as someone who influenced him to take a more focused approach in the weight room. Sanders, who like Slabaugh added dozens of pounds of muscle to go from thin to muscular and became an anchor on the line, in turn cites former Mogadore guard Dakota Christy as the player whose physical transformation motivated him in the weight room.

Sanders and Slabaugh would often go to the Lake YMCA together to lift and Slabuagh would also work out with the Sanders family. The lifting cycle for the upcoming season began the week after the Wildcats fell to Fort Recovery in last season’s Division VII state championship game.

From that point, Slabaugh didn’t take a week off from lifting until his family went on vacation to Destin, Fla., earlier this month. The week off left him feeling a bit off the pace from where he teammates are, but the week away was beneficial as well.

“I feel a little behind so I have to work up and catch up to where everybody else is at. I haven’t taken (time) off since a week after football started, so that was pretty much my week off. I kind of felt like I needed that a little bit,” Slabaugh said. “I lifted on my own sometimes down there, but it wasn’t as intense as up here because I can’t take a whole squat rack down there, so I just took a pull-up bar and did a lot of pull-ups and push-ups.”

When he is in the weight room, Slabaugh invariably has a serious expression on his face. Whether it’s agility drills, squats, dead lifts or any other exercise, he does his best to keep the workout focused and tries to make sure that his teammates do the same. His goal is to lead by example, but to also be willing to speak up if needed.

“I’m trying to do a little bit of both. I’m trying to be a good example, but if it’s not going well, I try to talk to them and straighten it out,” Slabaugh said. “There are some coaches and other people who like to balance it out and make it fun, or not as hard as difficult and sometimes people need that.”

As he looks around at an offensive line group that is younger and less experienced than in recent years, Slabaugh realizes that getting the underclassmen excited about the strength and conditioning process is important for success both this season and beyond. He remembers being a skinny sophomore backup who wanted to earn a spot in the lineup and knew he needed to be bigger in order to compete for a starting job.

“I think my sophomore year, I realized I really needed the weight room to gain weight because I was a 155-pound guard as a sophomore and to get that starting spot as a junior, I gained 40 pounds to separate myself from everybody in my class, to separate myself and show everyone else I wanted it,” he said.

That drive remains because, as Slabaugh noted, “this is Mogadore football,” which comes with a 16-season playoff streak and certain high expectations regardless of what graduation takes away from the previous season’s team. In Mogadore, football is always a serious endeavor and it begins on sweltering summer days in a small weight room above the high school gym.

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