SPRINGFIELD TWP. Outnumbering their opponents isn’t an option for the Springfield Spartans.
Unlike some of their Portage Trail Conference rivals, the Spartans don’t have overwhelming numbers on their roster and that lack of depth puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to winning matches.
“The biggest challenges we face are inexperience and wrestling with four or five forfeits in the lineup,” head coach Doug Jones said. “It is a rough road to go down in dual meets when you essentially give the other team 24 to 30 points because we are missing weight classes.”
Knowing that they don’t have the wrestlers to staff every weight class, the Spartans have learned to focus on individual matches rather than allowing the scoreboard to determine whether or not they had a successful outing. Their focus has shifted to technique and execution in individual matches and making sure that each wrestler who takes to the mat does so with their eyes fixed on the continual development of their technique and training process.
The overall record may not overwhelm at 5-15 and 0-4 in PTC competition, but a fourth-place finish at the Marlington Duals was an encouraging sign for the Spartans. Appearances at the Bill Dies Memorial tournament and Hephner Memorial tournament highlight the second half of the season and despite the team’s overall record, several wrestlers have emerged as bright spots along the way. Junior Jack Rogan has been virtually unbeatable, compiling a 13-1 record to post the top winning percentage on the roster. Sophomore Derek Cain, who played defensive line for the football team last fall despite giving up 100 pounds or more to many opposing linemen, leads the way in wins for Springfield with a 17-3 record. The two may wrestle in different weight classes and be in different grades, but Jones sees some commonality between the two.
“These two guys wrestle an aggressive style and take chances,” Jones said. “They are always looking to score points and aren't afraid to take risks and go big.”
For a team that doesn’t have a ton of depth and is asking young wrestlers to step in and fill the void, the Spartans have relied on several freshmen to make an impact. That can be a big ask for a coach, but according to Jones, Springfield’s freshman wrestlers have been up to the task.
“The unsung heroes of the team have to be the freshman class,” Jones said. “They are a scrappy bunch and push our upperclassman in practice everyday, challenge for varsity spots and keep others honest.”
Scrappy has been a good description of the season up to this point for the way Springfield has approached its season. Wrestling is a sport where competitors pride themselves on being tough and scrappy and for a program that doesn’t have a massive roster from which to draw, those qualities are even more important. With the remainder of their season, the Spartans plan to continue their technique work as much as possible, build good practice habits and not wrestle reactively. The overarching goal for the rest of the year is to have at least one wrestler qualify for the state tournament in March, which won’t be an easy task to accomplish. Whether it’s Cain, Rogan or another competitor who steps up and delivers a strong postseason, the road to Columbus is a long, grinding one for any wrestler. But given that they’ve been fighting an uphill battle all year long, the Spartans know what it takes to battle long odds.
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
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