No. 2 Goleman trying hard to improve
In many high school wrestling programs, Leif Goleman would be the man.
That's not so at De Soto High School, where he labors in the shadow of sophomore superstar Neil Erisman, a state runner-up as a freshman and winner of a national title this summer.
"Everyone knows Neil," Goleman said. "Somebody is always saying, 'Hey, what's going on?' He knows so many people."
Goleman is OK with his place on the team's pecking order.
"The kid has it all," he said. "He has great coaches here at school and over the summer. He knows so many people that are great wrestlers. I'm just scratching the surface as a wrestler myself."
Goleman has tried to take advantage of a great situation by learning from the younger Erisman. The 171-pound junior said he had made strides with his hand fighting in his brief career.
"I try to use some of the things that Neil has taught me," he said. "Sometimes he tells me to try to move my hips this way or turn my wrist that way."
De Soto wrestling coach Matt Jones liked what he had in Goleman. He described the junior as a bundle of energy.
"He is a tremendous athlete," the coach said. "He goes and goes and goes, which is to his advantage."
Jones said that despite Erisman's experience in big matches, Goleman bested his lighter teammate at times.
"They go at it pretty good," he said. "It depends on the day. But once in a while Leif will pop something and make a move. It just depends on who is on that day as to who dominates the other one."
Goleman isn't the only wrestler at De Soto who has become better because of Erisman's presence.
"It kicks up the intensity at practice," Jones said. "Just by all of the success Neil has had, the other guys work that much harder."
Both wrestlers and five of their teammates recently competed at a tournament in Sapulpa, Okla.
"The pace is so much faster down there," Goleman said. "The refs call stuff faster and tries to keep the pace up-tempo. The wrestlers like it. Even the worst wrestlers are there to score points. Instead of being timid, they get in there and fight."
Goleman said wrestlers in Oklahoma were bigger, faster and stronger than in most places in the country.
"A lot of the guys down there are massive," he pointed out. "They probably cut about 20 pounds just to make their weight class. I like to set up my shot, but the guys there shoot, and shoot, and shoot until something works.
Erisman lost for the first time during the regular season in his high school career at the tournament in Oklahoma. The loss to Oklahoma's No. 1-ranked wrestler dropped his season record to 16-1.
Goleman, who lost to the fifth-ranked Oklahoma wrestler by a 13-11 count in the fifth-place match, went 3-2 during the weekend and moved his record to 21-4 on the year.
"We just went at it," he said. "Neither one of us could hold the other. I was able to keep up with him until I lost by two points."
Brandon Hurt, Trevor Leahy, Jacob Rupe, Adam Faircloth and Alex Mercer also traveled to the tournament with Leahy, Faircloth and Mercer, winning a match apiece.