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Green wrestling playing numbers game

Andy Harris
Suburbanite correspondent

GREEN  This season has been a numbers game for the Green wrestling team.

The Bulldogs, as they have for the past several seasons, have a smaller roster filled largely with underclassmen who are working to adjust to the varsity level while the squad's veterans set the tone. New head coach Kenny Clark has dealt with all of the challenges that come with taking over a program alongside those that are part of sports in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Green Bulldogs

"Before quarantine, they seemed to be just fine with things like online classes and everything," Clark said. "We want them to give just two and a half hours out of their day for wrestling and trying to keep them on a routine, so we practice at the same time every day."

Routine has gotten disrupted often during the pandemic and along with spending time in quarantine, the Bulldogs have also had to contend with the learning curve for a roster with a large percentage of freshmen and sophomores. There have been ups and downs, with a tri-match against Canfield and Revere serving as a microcosm of that trend.

A competitive match against Canfield was contrasted with a larger loss to Revere, illustrating what life can be like for a young team with 15 wrestlers filling only 12 weight classes in a match.

Another large loss, this one to Hoover, showed that the Federal League is not a forgiving place for young teams. Clark is working to implement his coaching style and trying to zero in on the fundamentals in order to build a program that will grow and hopefully attract more wrestlers to come out for the team going forward.

"I've already told them that you guys are our future and that their success will build our program," Clark said. "We have six first- or second-year kids, so the biggest thing for me is to try to keep everybody healthy and focused. It's a game of numbers."

Juniors Nate Booth (160 pounds) and Blake Schaffer (182) are two of the Bulldogs' returning veterans and although Booth qualified for the state tournament last season, the pandemic forced the cancellation of the event, preventing him from being able to make the trip to Columbus.

This season, Booth and some of the team's other veterans have battled injury issues, as he and senior Cade Walker got banged up in the Hoover match. Without a lot of roster depth, those injuries have a major impact for Green, making it perhaps a small positive that the Bulldogs had to endure a two-week hiatus when they quarantined.

While no one would willingly choose to have to go through that experience, having two weeks away from the physicality of practices and matches could provide an opportunity to recover from injuries and allow the team to be fresher when it does get back into action.

There could also be some rust from the time off, Clark admitted.

"Without going live, drilling and wrestling, you can't mimic the level of conditioning you need," Clark said. "Guys are trying to keep their weight down, go out for runs and do what they can."

He noted that the 15 wrestlers on the roster are still trying to learn his program and had some rough patches early on. However, right as quarantine hit, he saw progress in terms of the team being able to come in for practice and get right to drilling without too much prodding from the coaches.

Younger wrestlers like freshman Matt Galemmo (170 pounds) are part of the group of new faces seeing mat time this season and Clark believes there are several who have a chance to make an impact in the postseason alongside veterans Booth, Schaffer and junior Garrett Dennis (220 pounds)

Once they're able to get the green light to return to action and the matches start up again, the Bulldogs will resume their quest to build a program with staying power and one that can go head-to-head with their Federal League rivals.