Turning up the heatThe Demon wrestling team begins practice with high expectations
At the beginning of Monday’s first practice of the season, Washington head wrestling coach Brent Van Weelden had a talk with his team. He used the phrase “expect to win” several times.
“We expect to win,” he told his wrestlers. “When I came here six years ago, we were probably the doormat of southeast Iowa. We’re not anymore. We can compete with anybody.”
The Demons proved that last year, going 21-4 in dual meets and reaching the regional dual tournament for the second time in three years.
“We want to try to duplicate that, obviously, or try to do better,” Van Weelden said. “We were 21-4 last year, so we’ll try to win 22 and up last year’s record.”
The Demons also want to get back to the regional dual tournament this year.
“We want to make it to regional duals again for sure,” Washington senior Mitchell Hora said. “We’ve made the regional duals twice in my career, and that’s a huge thing for us. That’s the only two times that Washington has ever made it to regional duals. So that’s definitely the goal this year.”
“To get further than the first round would be nice,” Washington senior Matt Grote added.
That could be attainable, as the Demons only lost three seniors from last year’s squad. And two state qualifiers — Hora and junior Fletcher Green — are back in Washington’s room this season.
“We only lost three seniors, and we have a bunch of good kids who came out this year from ninth grade,” Washington senior Aaron Kempf said.
Expectations have never been higher for Washington in its seven seasons under Van Weelden.
“We had a lot of success last year, which built on the success from the year before,” Hora said. “I think there are a lot of individuals who are looking to really make some noise this year.”
So the heat is on for the Demons. And during Monday’s practice, the temperature in the room kept rising, getting up to nearly 85 degrees by the end of the workout.
“It’s nice and hot in here,” Hora said. “The thermometer says 77 in here, but with the humidity and so many people packed in here, it’s nice and warm. It’s nice. I like it.”
During the first hour of practice, Washington’s 33 wrestlers worked on down blocks, sprawls and several other basic moves.
“We were working on very beginning entry stuff that we even teach to our youth kids,” Van Weelden said. “We were working on our stance from the neutral position and how to defend ourselves and how to set our opponents up. We just kind of went into the referee’s position as well and how to stay in good position underneath and on top. It was mostly review for the older guys. But there were a couple of younger kids in there and one who had never wrestled before.”
But you have to learn the little things to win. And the Demons still worked up a good sweat during the first practice of the season.
“There was a lot of movement yesterday and not a lot of standing around,” Van Weelden said. “I was tired, I know that. I think we got the point across that practices are going to be a little tougher than they were last year.”