Smith: Grapplers shouldn’t look ahead
With regionals and the state tournament right around the corner, the Tonganoxie High wrestling team faces a clear and present danger this week.
Looking ahead can be risky business and the Chieftains need to focus on the here and now if they want to eventually fulfill their state aspirations at Salina during the last weekend of February.
Tonganoxie has a dual Thursday at Perry-Lecompton and the Kaw Valley League championships Saturday at Bonner Springs before heading Feb. 20 and 21 to Abilene for regional competition.
The challenge for the grapplers will be to forget about the future. The state tournament is hyped as the be all and end all of Kansas prep wrestling, and rightly so. But Tonganoxie wrestlers will be doing themselves a disservice if they are more worried about the mega-event than the seemingly small ones they have on the slate this week.
Immediately following Tonganoxie’s double dual with Bonner Springs and Lansing this past Thursday, THS senior Matt Brock said this week’s events don’t seem that important because the regional, where wrestlers qualify for state, is already on the front of everyone’s mind.
“Regionals is like the big tournament that everyone is getting ready for,” said Brock, ranked fourth in the state among Class 4A 140-pounders, before noting the KVL tournament should prepare them for the following weekend.
Fellow senior Kevin Hamm (145) said he has been thinking about the regional “every day.” With the end of his high school wrestling career fast approaching, state seems bigger than ever.
“Especially with the seniors, this is our last trip,” Hamm said. “We just want to make sure we finish strong like last year.”
In 2008, Tonganoxie sent six grapplers to state and three of them — Brock, Cameron Adcox and Travis Adcox — medaled. Hamm was one of the THS state qualifiers who didn’t, so it’s easy to see why he’s looking forward to state this year.
But using future outcomes as a motivational ploy can be a slippery slope if an athlete becomes obsessed. With focus and success this week, the Chieftains could get on a roll heading into the postseason and better their chances for a prosperous run at state.
Tonganoxie coach Jeremy Goebel said it is easy to stumble into the looking-ahead trap and he hopes to keep his wrestlers focused on one thing at a time this week.
“We can’t overlook anything,” Goebel said. “The minute we overlook something, we’re going to fall flat, and we can’t have that happen.”
The coach said his wrestlers need to be fine tuned entering the team’s regional, and the best way to do that is to win some matches — right here, right now — and acquire the best possible seed for the forthcoming regional.