Promising results from wrestling tournament - Jan. 16, 2013
St. Stephen High School athlete Adam Tanner manhandles Antoni Mattet, en route to a gold-medal performance at a high-school wrestling tournament held in St. Stephen Saturday.
Adam Tanner is clearly a different young man than he was nine months ago, and the change is wreaking havoc among the province’s 51-kg junior boys ranks.
There’s a bit more muscle on the young man’s lean frame, testament to a greater dedication to strength training and fitness. His greater strength allowed him to lift Ecole Nepisiguit Secondaire’s Antoni Mattet clear off the mat, then take two confident strides to the edge of the ring before tossing his soon-to-be-vanquished foe aside.
“I’ve been working on technique a lot,” he said, following his gold-medal victory at the weekend tournament.
Stronger, yes, but the Tanner of Saturday drew a stark contrast to the national championships in May of 2012 in poise and composure. Then, Tanner seemed nervous, tentative and uncertain how to counter his opponents’ moves as he penetrated deeper into the draw.
In the gap between then and now, Tanner’s mind has evidently grasped a wrestling truism: mental preparation and confidence mean so much. It’s something luminary wrestlers before him – such as Allyssa Cleaves, Trent Moses, Val Ouellette – repeated frequently.
Now, Tanner understands.
“I’m trying to work on staying in the zone,” the Grade 10 athlete acknowledged. “Stay composed: that’s one of my main things this year.”
Wrestling coach Pat Zwicker readily admitted placing more pressure on Tanner this year, asking more of a young man who has already gained a lot of wrestling experience through middle school.
Tanner seems to welcome that challenge.
“It’s about drilling hard, and working the technique. Sometimes, if we go to a camp, we’ll learn a new technique and bring that back to the room.”
The strong effort at the tournament is, said Tanner, a great opportunity to gauge the opposition in the province, and reflect on what needs to change.
Tanner not only mopped up the four-man field in his weight class, he handily defeated a senior-age wrestler who had come to the competition only to find no foe, downing Mattet’s 56-kg stablemate Joel Hache in a two-round exhibition decision to conclude the day’s action.
The victory over an older, heavier athlete is further testament to Tanner’s growth. He counters better, that is, he can read an opponent’s attack, read weaknesses to exploit, and capitalize accordingly.
“Our coaches tell us that we need to make (the opponents move) our move, and we’ve been working on that in practice.”
Zwicker offered a grand declaration of just how much Tanner has grown this season.
“It’s coming. He could be ready for a podium in the nationals, if he keeps going in this direction.”
Composure, affirmed Zwicker, has been the greatest change in the young man.
“He’s holding it together better, staying focused, not getting rattled when things don’t go his way.”
The added time in the weight room has boosted strength, and Tanner is also benefitting from exposure to older, larger athletes in practice.
“He’s in one of the best spots in the room. He’ s just underneath four kids that are bigger and stronger than he is.”
The change between now and the nationals in May of 2012, where Tanner advanced to the semifinals but faltered thereafter, is an often-necessary growth step, Zwicker reasoned.
“Sometimes you have to see the dance before you’re going to be successful there,” he said. “I think it was a measuring stick.”
Most importantly, Tanner has learned how great a role attitude and mindset play in terms of wrestling success, Zwicker stated.
“If you don’t have that mental aspect, your preparation... if you go on the mat, beating your head, it’s going to be hard to pull it out.”
An interesting comparison, perhaps, can be made with Patrick Shannon, who steamrolled to victory in the senior boy’s 60-kg class.
A seasoned karate competitor, with a black belt to show for his toils, Shannon does not lack confidence. In his matches Saturday, Shannon stepped onto the mat with a steely edge in his eye. If anything, the first-year wrestler was a bit too over-eager, seeking to pin opponents when a more tactical approach would have ensured victory with less risk.
“That’s the inexperience, showing through. That’s what you try and get your middle school kids not to do,” Zwicker. “They’re looking for moves that will get you the pin.”
Shannon, however, defends his zeal- and his argument is backed by obvious success.
“I’m picking up, pretty fast, now. I’m picking new moves. My timing is getting down, obviously a huge improvement from my previous tournament,” said the Grade 12 athlete, who opted to try wrestling this year as a means to further his dreams of pursuing mixed martial arts combat down the road.
“I’m usually confident about my move, but sometimes I think ‘pin’ too soon, get overconfident.”
Strong efforts were also registered by Cass Leavitt, who claimed the senior boys 62-kg class; Reid Young who dominated the 56-kg junior boys division; Brayden Ross who claimed Silver in the 61-kg junior boys division and Shalina Mason who had little trouble cruising to victory in the 74-kg girls category.
A small group of wrestlers associated with the St. Stephen Wrestling Club will compete Next tournament will be the Eastern Canadian Championships, at UNB Fredericton, Jan. 26.
“I’m probably only taking seven or eight athletes to that,” Zwicker stated.
The next high school competition will be in Halifax, Feb. 2.