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Norton wrestling team pinning postseason hopes on young athletes

1/31/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Sean Patrick

NORTON — Norton High School wrestling head coach Gene Leonard said his team heads into every match with one goal in mind.

“My team looks for a pin all the time. I think I have them understanding that the ultimate goal is to pin your opponent,” he said. “We probably have 25 percent more pins this year and we’re probably getting pinned that much less. My philosophy is basically that we need to pin — that’s what gets the most points. Winning by points is great, but we need to pin to win and, in turn, we can’t get pinned.”

Leonard said that philosophy has led to the team’s improvement this season.

In 2011-12, Norton finished 8-7 overall, with a 2-5 record in the Portage Trail Conference (PTC) Metro Division. Through Jan. 28 of this season, the team’s record in dual meets was 10-4 overall, and the team also has improved in league play.

“The league meets are over and we’re 4-3,” the coach said. “Last year, in the league we were 2-5, so we made vast improvements there.”

And with a fairly young team overall, Leonard said Norton wrestling is definitely a program on the upswing.

“We have 13 of the 14 weight classes filled,” he said. “However, we have 25 [wrestlers] on the team. Of the 13, seven are ninth- and 10th-graders.”

One young wrestler who already has been successful for the team is sophomore Sean Rutherford (220 pounds), a returning state placer who Leonard said is even better this season.

“Last year, he wrestled a lot of close matches and I think he had seven or eight losses at this time last year,” the coach said. “This year, we already know he’s been to ‘the show’ and he’s placed before. He’s wrestling a lot more aggressively.”

Another key underclassman, Leonard said, is freshman Colin Hagenbush (138 pounds), who currently has a 16-7 record.

According to Leonard, the upperclassmen also are pulling their weight this season, led by seniors Mike Nunez and Andy Simons.

“Mike is 160 pounds, and he can wrestle with anyone. He continues to get better and better and better, but I’ve seen him beat an 18-1 kid and then turn around and get beat by a kid that’s 2-12. He is so active that he sometimes puts himself into a position he doesn’t need to be in, but he can pin anybody. I’d just like him to be more consistent,” the coach said. “As for Andy, he never gives up. He’s one of those kids who will run through a wall for you. He may not knock it down, but he’ll run and do it six times. He’s just a hard-nosed, hard-working kid. He’s going to go in the service when the school year’s over.”

The coach said this year’s team also features “a good group of juniors” in Alan Beddow (126 pounds), Mike Dyer (170 pounds), Erik Brown (195 pounds) and John Glas (285 pounds).

“This group has put [up] 62 wins already,” Leonard stated.

Up next for the team is the PTC league meet, which starts tomorrow, Feb. 1, at 5:30 p.m. at Rootstown High School. Leonard said he would like to see his team at least duplicate its standing of a season ago.

“I’d be happy with fourth place again. There are some very good teams there, so I’d be happy with fourth,” he said. “But anything can happen on any given day.”

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