By: Collin Frazier
Young. That is the word to best describe this year Findlay Wrestling team. Due to injuries and other circumstances, many underclassmen will be taking the lead this season. Head Coach, Shawn Nelson, is hoping to give this young team the experience they need to succeed.
“This year, I could start six freshmen. I’ve never had that in my 20+ years here. I think the focus this year is that they have something to prove,” said Nelson. They’ve never done anything [achievement-wise], nobody’s All-American, so they have to wrestle like they have something to prove this year.”
With a short off season (athletes are only allowed to start contact on the mats three weeks before the regular season), Nelson believes the team has a lot of catching up to do.
“I feel like we’re behind,” Nelson stated. “That’s why we set the schedule where we wrestle a lot of open [matches]. [We’re trying to] get as many matches as you can and don’t worry about win-loss records at this point. [We’re hoping to] give them [the athletes] a lot of experience and mat time and then we know what we can fix.”
Even with this young team, Nelson believes that team chemistry and leadership is present, especially from James Wimer.
“James is our only returning All-American, but he is red-shirting this year, and he’s really taking that leadership role really well,” Nelson commented. “It seems like these young guys are responding very good too.”
With wrestling being almost a pure body-contact sport, many risks for injury can be present. Nelson is making sure to take caution for the safety of the athletes.
“That’s probably the trickiest part. I always tell kids in our sport it’s not always who’s the best at the end of the year, it’s also who’s healthy. I’m very easy-going with the guys, if they have an injury, I’ll have heir a little bit on the side of caution and give them extra time off and I think that’s helped us in the past,” said Nelson. “We kind of settle down in our schedule where we only wrestle like once every weekend instead of multiple times. That last month we really cut back quite a bit to try to keep them healthy.”
The Oilers next tournament will be Nov. 9 in an open match against Kaufman, Brand, and Bayly in St. Louis, Missouri.