The season is about over for the Maryville Saints wrestling team. With a little more than 8 matches left to be had between the national qualifier and the national tournament, it is truly crunch time for the Saints. And it was at this time last year that assistant coach Mario Morgan was gearing up for his senior run at a national title at University of Nebraska-Omaha. The four-time national qualifier in college was also a two-time finalist and a national champion his senior year. I sat down with coach Mario Morgan to discuss the upcoming two tournaments for the Saints, what goes into being a national qualifier, All-American and national champion.
The biggest thing, according to Coach Morgan as well as many other coaches, is the mentality a kid has going into the national qualifier as well as the national tournament. According to him, the biggest difference between his freshman year, when he only qualified for the national tournament, and his sophomore year, when he placed third, was the mentality he brought with him. But it wasn’t just something he had for a limited time. According to Coach Morgan you don’t just have the attitude of being an All-American when you are at the national qualifier, you have to bring it with you all year, to every workout, practice, and tournament all season long. According to him having the mentality of a champion isn’t something you can decide to pick up at the end of the season, it is something you have to live on a daily basis. Having the mentality of a champion, in other words, isn’t something you can choose to flip on or off. The mentality of a champion is a lifestyle you have to live.
But keeping up the mentality of a champion can get hard sometimes, and losses and injuries that kids suffer throughout the season can wear on them not only physically, but also mentally. It is then that kids have to turn to their teammates and their coaches to learn from their experience. However, with only two guys on the team with any experience at the national tournament and with a freshman-heavy team, there aren’t too many older teammates for guys to turn to for leadership. That’s why Coach Morgan considers it his responsibility in large part to keep guys in the right mindset going into the national qualifier this weekend.
After all, a large part of the end of the season comes down to a kid’s mentality, and that is where most older guys often have the biggest advantage over their younger counterparts, mostly because they are calm and confident in their ability to win against anyone. This is why Coach Morgan believes it will be so important for him and the other coaches to keep the guys calm and confident this weekend, because we have a lot of young guys who are “on the bubble”. By that he means that we have a lot of guys who have a good shot at going to nationals as long as they perform well. And performing well, as well as so much else, comes down to the mindset each kid has, the mentality of a champion, something Coach Morgan knows very well.