Seven Knights seek perfection at states
By Jake Dziubla
Round Table sports editor
For nearly a year, Middletown High School wrestlers have gathered on the mats within the gymnasium, perfecting the skills needed to carry them deep into the 2011-2012 season. From March to November, most wrestlers devoted at least twice a week to polishing and refining their moves. This raw effort and determination paid off in an extraordinary way: Seven wrestlers from MHS are heading to states to compete in the state championship. The seven wrestlers are seniors Dylann Hermann, Judd Zeigler, Andrew Cross, and Vinny Wilkes; junior Matt Capobianco; and sophomores Hayden Roberts and Greg Cox.
“They worked harder than any other team we had,” said Coach Schartner, the head coach of the team. “They put the time and effort in from March to November to get better.” Under Schartner, Middletown is ranked 16th in the state.
The time and effort that the team poured in during the off-season did not stop in November, however.
“They put the effort and the hard work, more than anybody, during the season.” said Schartner as he explained the uniqueness of the team in terms of their perseverance and exceptional character.
The high watermark of the season, thus far, occurred at the regional championships last weekend. Seven wrestlers qualified for states, a pair of them being underclassmen. To the underclassmen, the state championship was merely a dream during the beginning of the season.
“[Greg Cox] stepped up this weekend, Hayden Roberts stepped up,” said Schartner as he spoke of the two sophomores. Roberts placed third, while Cox finished in fourth in regionals.
“I think if you were to say in the beginning of the year, ‘Do you guys think you’re gonna qualify for states?’ they would’ve said, ‘Well, I want to. I’m not sure if they believed it,’” said Schartner as he described the growth in confidence that occurred within the two sophomores.
“The other guys, you probably knew that they could do it,” said Schartner as he spoke of the upperclassmen who have dominated the mats this season. Schartner has two boys ranked first in the state in each of their weight classes: junior Matt Capobianco and senior Judd Zeigler. Zeigler’s brother and freshman, Tucker Zeigler, placed in the top six at regionals.
For Judd Zeigler, a 14-year veteran of the sport who will be heading to Princeton upon graduation, the regional championships are anything but unfamiliar. Last season, Zeigler made it to regionals, but was unable to compete in the state championship due to an infection that occurred on his face.
“That’s not a big deal because, you know, it was junior year. I’ve got senior year now,” said Zeigler.
For Zeigler, the off-season commitment to practice, along with his coaches, is what he believes has carried him to states. “[During the spring and summer] is when you learn more moves and get better technique,” said Zeigler.
Dylan Herrmann, a senior who placed second at regionals, credits his drilling partner, Zeigler, for his success this season.
“Practice partners helped a lot this season,” said Herrmann.
For team preparation, Schartner has been using practice for “fine tuning” in terms of the aspects of each wrestler’s moves.
“We’re not going to reinvent the wheel at this point. We’re just going to make what you do better,” said Schartner.
While the team may refine the smaller, technical pieces of their capabilities, Schartner has been using a great deal of practice time to review the simple technicalities of wrestling itself.
“That’s what’s going to make you a better wrestler, is doing the basic fundamentals better than anyone else,” said Schartner. Schartner devoted the entire practice on Monday for a review of those “basic fundamentals”. He plans to set aside practice time to focus on each wrestler’s individual moves in order to make their personal technique optimal for the championship.
At the championship, Schartner will need to keep his eye on Winters Mill, the returning state championship team. Each player, however, will need to focus on a specific, individual opponent. With 14 different weight classes, there is a different opponent for each player to overcome. Some weight classes also have players ranked first in the state, presenting steep challenges for certain wrestlers.
The wrestlers will take to the mats on Friday Mar. 2. The preliminary round of bouts will begin at 2:30 p.m. inside Cole Field House at the University of Maryland College Park.