On my way to the weight room each day I see the same group of kids entering the Kravis room. They wear the classic greens and greys and a look of extreme determination.
About an hour later, I see the same students, wearing shirts stained dark with sweat and showing obvious signs of mental and physical fatigue. These are the wrestlers of Deerfield Academy. I am done with my workout at this point; they might not even be half way done.
“Practice is two hours of war,” said Chase Weidner ’10, when asked what the atmosphere is like behind the closed doors of the Kravis. Weidner was sporting multiple bruises across his face and a cauliflower ear. The way he moved across his room gave away his exhaustion, but that is what it takes to have an 18-0 regular. He dealt with his pain because he had no other choice as a wrestler.
A tri-varsity athlete, Weidner is more than familiar with the physical demands of a sport, but as he stated, nothing is quite like wrestling. “Soccer doesn’t even compare. Wrestling is constant resistance,” said Weidner.
Wrestling does not carry the popularity of Deerfield hockey, lacrosse, or football. As Alexis Wagener ’10 put it, “Most people don’t know the rules, or understand the sport of wrestling. It’s hard to be a fan of something that you don’t understand.”
Weidner filled me in on a few of these little-known rules. “If you want to grab someone’s fingers, you cannot grab less than four, but you can grab the thumb individually. You must be fully shaven, and the whites of your fingernails cannot be showing.”
Luke Mario ’12 sees wrestling in his future, saying, “I’ve always wanted to wrestle in college.” Mario won Class A’s as a freshman and was second place in New England’s at the 103 pound weight class. This year Mario ended the regular season with a 17-1 record, and won Class A’s at the 119 weight class. Mario comes from an impressive wrestling pedigree: his father, Carter Mario, was a wresting Captain and All-American at North Carolina. Mr. Mario also helped bring in two outside coaches for the season.
Vincent Ramirez and Mike Pinza, captains of North Carolina and Williams respectively, have brought a new level of intensity to wrestling practices this year. “They help with everything; our technique has improved, they brought new training methods, and just an overall intensity to the program,” said Mario. The results have shown in the record as well, as they went from ninth in class A’s in 2009, to fifth this year.
Both Weidner and Wagener had great things to say as well. “Across the board there has been a dramatic increase in ability,” said Wagener of the new techniques.
“They are young guys who can relate to the stresses of an intense academic environment. They don’t just tell us what to do, they show us,” Weidner added, referring to the fact that the coaches spar often with Deerfield wrestlers.
Mario feels the pressure of wrestling on a day-to-day basis, saying “practices break you down mentally and physically.” Since Wagener and Weidner will not be wrestling in college, I began to wonder why they continue subjecting their minds and bodies to such pain every day.
“That question is always floating around,” Weidner commented, cracking a smile in the process. “We get crushed, banged up, bruised every day. I know that when I look back on wrestling, it will be worthwhile. There is no feeling like winning a wrestling match,” Weidner finished with his second smile of the conversation.
Even Wagener, who has been wrestling competitively for six years and finished with a 14-4 regular season record at the 145 weight class, sometimes questions why he puts on the headgear every day.
“Sometimes I don’t know why I do it. Practice, matches, cutting weight, it’s all I think about during the season,” said Wagener. However, he finished by saying, “I want to be able to look back and be proud.”
Wagener said, “There have been practices where the coach has told me the goal for today is to break your partner.”