By Richard Oh '18
“1, 2, 3, Bulldogs! 4, 5, 6, Family!” These were the hurrahs that ended every huddle that surrounded the practices, matches, and tournaments of STA’s 2017-2018 wrestling team. Compared to past seasons, it seems to me that this team made more of a deliberate effort to be brothers to each other, to create a family. In a sport where each bout of competition is individual, it could have been difficult to feel the presence of teammates in the struggle of a match.
However, it was off the mat and in wrestling room where kind encouragement thrived. Aside from the cooperative nature of many drills this year, we practiced an activity called “Highlight, Hero, Heartbreak”. The name of the activity represents three different activities. In the latter two, an individual on the team can volunteer to talk about a hero or heartbreak in their lives. In highlight, a chosen individual is showered with compliments unrelated to wrestling hailing from five different teammates. The result of these sub-activities was a deep bonding experience brought about by personal reflection and gratitude.
Starting with his brainchild activities, Coach Armstrong was very crucial in establishing a winning attitude in the program. Coach would give motivational team speeches in the days before a match. He would pray for us and would not tolerate excuses, instilling the idea in every member that winning was an absolute possibility in every match. Also, Coach hooked the team up with some sharp, new singlets, each with an STA shield embroidered on the back. One of coach’s favorite mantras was “the shield stays up”, referring to the idea that one should never be on one’s back and that the team fights to protect the pride of the school. Another mantra was “win by pin”, reflecting this year’s high standard for all matches.
The team captains, Jake Melman-Rogers and James Howe, were set on winning the IAC Championship this year. “This is our year,” Jake would say. In prior years of wrestling, I cannot recall leadership that cared more about winning.
The team fought hard at this past weekend’s IAC Championship Tournament. Everyone brought their best self to the mat, ready to win. Sadly, the wrestling team finished second to Landon, both programs turning the tables on Georgetown Prep’s massive championship streak. Some team members have supposed a manipulation of brackets by rival IAC coaches in order to turn favor away from a St. Albans championship. In addition, All-IAC awards (voted on by coaches) were given, perhaps subjectively, to relatively weak wrestlers. A few of our talented seniors expected nomination. Regardless of any possibly hidden malice, I will say that our program cares about winning with dignity; we raise our athletes instead of recruiting a few.
The future is bright. Despite a runner-up finish at the IAC’s, a strong majority of our team is both young and talented. Rising seniors are ready to lead. These are two strong indications of success in coming years.
If you seek a fulfilling winter sport, I would highly consider Wrestling. This sport teaches you the elusive lesson of grit and makes you a winner.