PREP WRESTLING

Boone wrestling team down to five

2011-01-04T22:00:00Z 2011-01-05T06:23:13Z Boone wrestling team down to fiveBy Jim Peters jim.peters@nwi.com, (219) 548-4363 nwitimes.com
January 04, 2011 10:00 pm  • 

It would be easy for Mark Line to soften his approach.

But it's just not the way he's built, not back in the day when he was coaching state contenders at Lowell and not now when he's got a team of five at Boone Grove.

"We're going to work hard, drill, condition and let the chips fall on the mat," Line said. "I'm not going to back off on my philosophy. I told them either you're here or you're not here. I can't fear that I can't push them. It doesn't do justice to the kids who are here."

Twenty-six boys signed up in the preseason. The number dwindled to 14 by the start of practice and 10 or 11 for the first meet. A couple more dropped off after the holiday break, leaving the Wolves where they are now.

"My hat's off to those who have stayed," Line said. "It's never a question of them being there. They work hard and do what they're asked. It takes courage, bravery to step out on that mat, especially when you don't have a lot of experience."

For juniors Jared Cockrell and Neal Cleland, it was never an issue. The two have wrestled since middle school and it's their only sport.

"It's easy to stay, with this group of guys," Cockrell said. "They're all hard workers. We've got a strong bond. It would be nice to have more people, but I'd rather have less with a group with heart, like we have."

Boone has no wrestlers under 152, meaning Cockrell starts many of the Wolves' matches. He's followed by Cleland (160), classmate Ryan Abrego (171), sophomore Patrick Poxon (189) and freshman Zack Keilman (215).

"We're all friends. We hang out outside of school," Cleland said. "No other sport allows you to be as aggressive. You work really hard in practice, wrestle a match, give it all you've got and when you end up with a win, it's a great feeling."

The sweat comes with no guarantees, one reason Line believes there aren't more kids.

"Wrestling's a tough sport," he said. "You've got to go through the battles to win the wars. If you don't win them all, you don't win them all. Learning is always the most important thing. That's my philosophy. You're just trying to get better every day, and I think they are. It's making them a better athlete, a better person."

Poxon and Keilman are both there largely because of football, but Line doesn't mind. Assistant coach Tony Girgenti encouraged them to come out, as he was urged when he was at Portage by Larry Tharp.

"It's good that there aren't so many. It's my first year and I get more experience," Poxon said. "I'm getting in better shape. I feel better. I'm losing more weight than in football. Wrestling's far tougher than football. All the kids (badmouth) wrestling, but it's fun."

The handful of Wolves who wrestle may be the 'odd balls,' according to Keilman, but it's a moniker he wears with pride.

"I feel stronger every day," Keilman said. "I practice and I have more energy the next day. When someone quits, you just learn to deal with it. You move on, keep going. I plan to stay with it all through high school."

Sure, Line would like to have more bodies simply to improve the quality of practices. But as long as he's got one kid willing to lay it on the line for him, he's going to do the same.

"They're the men of valor," Line said.

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