After two and a half weeks since its last match, the Leavenworth High School wrestling team returns to the mat at 5 p.m. today against seventh-ranked Gardner-Edgerton.
“They are an extremely tough team, which is excellent because you want to challenge yourself against the best,” LHS head coach Jay Johnston said. “It’s great to have a really tough team coming in here because we can see where we stand and see how much we’ve learned and see how much we’ve progressed.”
Before the break, the young Pioneers team was learning fundamentals, but the past couple of weeks has allowed them to have more match-like practices.
“Before, it was so much teaching and now we can get to a lot more hard drilling, a lot more live wrestling and conditioning ourselves,” Johnston said.
With the change-up in practice, Johnston said he’s been able to see if his teaching has translated to the mat.
“They are starting to look like wrestlers,” he said. “That first month was a lot of painful growth. Now, they are starting to put it together. All of them are really starting to be complete wrestlers from top, bottom and neutral.”
Johnston said there can be a difference between repetition in practice and the result in a match.
“It’s one thing to teach a move and they do it over and over again in practice, but it’s another thing for them to actually work on it in a real match situation,” he said.
The break has allowed for a range of techniques to be covered.
“We worked a lot over the break on our foot work, defense and some stuff to make us a little bit more dangerous on our feet,” Johnston said. “The past couple of days we’ve been working on our mat skills, like getting off bottom and being tough on top.”
Earlier this season, Johnston said the team’s ability to avoid pins when they got underneath their opponent was an issue, but he’ seen improvement in that area.
“We’ve got to get more confidence on being on bottom and getting out from under there,” he said.
After today’s dual with Gardner-Edgerton, LHS will compete Friday and Saturday in the Joe Crouthers Tournament at North Kansas City.
“I like having a dual before a tournament because after a break, it helps get the rust off after a couple of weeks off before we head to the tournament,” Johnston said.