The biggest difference from last season for La Crescent High School wrestling coach Garret Griffin is that this year he knew just about everybody’s name on the first day of practice.
“Well they know me better, that’s for sure,” said Griffin at the first day of practice for the 2017-18 season. “I know these guys from last season, and got to take some of them to camp this summer, so we’ve built up a stronger relationship since last year, when I was just a fresh coach.”
Griffin said he was pleased with how hard guys were willing to work in their first 5:45 a.m. practice of the year, which is good because Griffin plans to run practices twice daily on a regular basis to start the season. Griffin said one of his primary intentions is to mix things up in practice, rather than get into a locked arrangement.
“It’s always going to be different, because that’s what I really want to do,” said Griffin on his practice plans for this season. “The thing about wrestling is that it’s such a long season, and gets to be a grind, because when you do the same thing every day and always know what to expect, it gets to be boring, like a job.”
Griffin prefers a twice daily practice schedule because the team can get the same amount of time in, without having long practices.
“We lifted this morning, but some days we’ll wrestle live, some days we’ll just drill, and some days maybe we’ll just come in and play dodgeball.” said Griffin. “We just want to keep it different, and keep the guys interested in the sport.”
Last year was the first for Griffin that he wasn’t wrestling competitively. Griffin spent a couple seasons with the UW-L wrestling team, until injuries eventually compelled him to start coaching. According to Griffin, he was a good but not great wrestler in high school, and experienced a serious learning curve when he got to college. After getting cut from the team his freshman year, Griffin came back the next spring and earned a roster spot.
“It really humbled me, and made me listen to my coaches more,” said Griffin of his time wrestling for the Eagles. “I had to work a lot harder just to make a spot, which I hadn’t been used to.”
La Crescent’s junior class this season is its biggest and most tough, said Griffin. At the 138 weight, the Lancers have junior Dylan Worrell, who Griffin said has gotten a lot more mentally stronger after not having the season he wanted to last year. And the junior Jorgenson twins, Colton (160) and Clayton (170), are moving up weight classes this year after posting strong sophomore seasons.
“They just want to beat anybody that’s gonna step out in front of them, at whatever weight it is,” said Griffin of the Jorgenson brothers.
Freshman Andy Lopez is another guy that Griffin is excited to see wrestle this season, after surprising some opponents last year as an eighth-grader.
“Towards the end of last season, he really brought it,” said Griffin of Lopez. “And so this year I told him he’s gotta prepare like he’s a varsity guy every day, because he is”
Only two wrestlers represent the senior class for the Lancers this season, and only one of them is healthy.
Zach Bolyard will be a strong wrestler in the 195 spot for the Lancers this season, after going 16-2 in the 182 weight class his junior year.
“He was a kid that got a lot better last year, and just kind of came out of nowhere on people, and did really well at sections,” said Griffin of Bolyard. “I think it’s going to be a similar situation with him this year, except that now he knows he’s better.”
The other senior is Josh Weigel, who wrestled in the 126 spot last year before suffering a shoulder injury that ended his season. Weigel played big minutes for the Lancer soccer team that won a Three Rivers Conference title this fall.
“Josh was tough for us last season when we had him. He was getting a lot better, had a good Bi-State, but then he got hurt, and we didn’t get him back” said Griffin. “So he’s coming in this year as a senior with his last opportunity, and as soon as he’s healthy, he’s going to be ready.”
Weigel, who’s back to rehabbing the same shoulder, said he got a 25 percent medical clearance to start the season, which he admitted isn’t a very high percentage. But from what he saw on the first day, Weigel said he could already sense what type of team the Lancers would be this season.
“I think we’re gonna be tough this year, and have the chance to beat a lot of teams we didn’t last year,” said Weigel. “Just from experience, I think our returning guys can put a lot of skill down on the mat.”