Jones: Offseason commitment key to future success
The phrase "young and inexperienced" was used to describe this year's De Soto wrestling team so often it could wear out a computer keyboard.
De Soto coach Matt Jones said he's hoping a renewed offseason effort by his most dedicated wrestlers can make that phrase a thing of the past, however.
After wading through an entire season of teaching the basics and watching his athletes learn lessons the hard way, Jones said the right kind of offseason can change everything for the program.
"You can't become a good wrestler by wrestling three months out of the year," Jones said. "You have to start putting time in during the offseason."
The 2006-2007 team left some room for improvement, though several times throughout the season the Cats celebrated victories and saw hard work in the practice room pay off on the tournament mat.
Jones said the highlight of his season -- the one moment that went the furthest to show the potential of his athletes -- was Todd Atchison's run in the 103-pound bracket at the Frontier League tournament in Louisburg.
Atchison, a freshman, cut weight from 112 pounds to get into the 103 class, and once he grew accustomed to the smaller division, he realized more success than any other Wildcat wrestler, finishing fifth at the tournament.
He won two matches at the league meet. In his final one, he rebounded from a near-pin in the opening moments to a dominating position in the second round. He flung Tyler Markus of Ottawa hard and slammed him on the mat, then pounced and bore down hard to earn the pin.
"When Todd came in and placed at league, that showed the kids what was possible," Jones said. "He had to win matches to get there and he came from behind to do it."
The Cats do return nearly their full stable of wrestlers next winter. The seven-man team De Soto sent to the league meet had three juniors, two sophomores and three freshmen.
The steps necessary to improve upon the team's lone match victory at the regional tournament will come throughout the summer, Jones said.
"Erik Buffkin and Todd are wrestling in the kid's club, and that's how you get better," Jones said. "They have to make up for all the time they lost to the kids that started in seventh grade."
Tom Beaver, who served as a team captain along with Buffkin, is too old to wrestle in the kids league, but should return even more experienced and much improved, Jones said.
Beaver was the only wrestler besides Atchison to win a match at league, and finished the season with the team's best record, 7-21.