In two weeks, three Saints wrestlers will be competing in Pueblo, Colo. for a national title after qualifying at last weekend’s regional qualifier; however, the end of the season comes with mixed results. While sending three wrestlers to nationals, two of which are true freshmen and other a regional champion, is quite respectable for most first-year programs, the saints still walked away with their heads hung low. After all, when you wrestle for Coach Mike Denney, whose teams have won 6 of the last 8 national titles before this year, more is expected than a “respectable” performance.
However, even knowing that the season ended on a disappointing note, there is still promise for the Saints because in addition to the two true freshman that qualified for nationals, almost the entire team is young. In fact, the starting lineup only consisted of two upper classmen. One was Brett Rosedale, a senior who had to drop out of the tournament after re-aggravating a debilitating neck injury suffered mid-way throughout the year. The other is Mathew Baker, a junior who will be one of the wrestlers competing for Maryville at the national tournament after two upset victories in the semifinals and the finals. He walked away with a title last weekend.
While there is a certain enthusiasm and energy a youthful team has that can be a benefit, especially during the cold winter months where the season stretches on, in this case age, or more importantly experience, may have caught up with the Saints wrestlers. Only two wrestlers on the team had ever experiences a regional tournament before, and because of this unfamiliarity and anxiety, many wrestlers were incredibly and even overly excited. This manifested itself in many ways with several wrestlers losing sleep and even more becoming overly anxious and performing poorly.
That is why having a team of mostly underclassmen, primarily freshman and only one senior, has made this year a difficult year. Nevertheless things are not as bad for Saints wrestling as they may appear. This year, while it may have been tough, provided many freshmen wrestlers with invaluable experience moving forward into next year, and having only one senior means that the team can only continue to grow and mature in the years ahead.
With another strong freshman class coming in next year and with the guidance of Coach Denney, the youthful members on the wrestling team are looking back at this last weekend mostly as a lesson and as an opportunity to learn, to grow and to improve. Because when you wrestle for Coach Denney, “respectable” is not good enough; excellence is what is expected.