PHOTO PROVIDED BY ESTA RYDER
Dalton junior Austin Ryder gets ready to compete Dec. 5 against a Canton South opponent at home. Ryder won his matches Dec. 4 against Wadsworth and Dec. 5 against Canton South. Tate Geiser and Eric Miller also posted wins Dec. 4 against Wadsworth.
Dalton High School’s wrestling team knew walking in to the Wadsworth match Dec. 4 was going to be “extremely tough,” said Coach Kenton Lemon.
Wadsworth has three to four legitimate state finalists at the Division 1 level, and Wadsworth is ranked in the top 50 of all high school wrestling programs in the country.
Still, Lemon said he thought his team wrestled well overall, especially considering this was in their first week of the season.
“Our older guys definitely got some great competition and our young guys got a great measuring stick for where they want to get to,” Lemon wrote in an email. “Tate Geiser, Eric Miller and Austin Ryder all posted wins for us.”
The next day, the Bulldogs hit the mat against Canton South.
“We had a pretty good idea that we would be evenly matched with Canton South but I had no idea how close the match would actually be,” Lemon wrote. “We ended up winning the dual 37-36. Our kids came back on Saturday and fixed some of the mistakes that we saw on Friday. I can’t say enough how coachable this team is and how willing they are to adjust their style based on the coaching that we are giving them.”
The team still has a lot of work ahead of them, Lemon noted.
“I talked to the team Saturday after our dual and reminded them that this is the first week of the season,” he said in the email. “We are not in shape yet, we still have guys getting to their optimal weight classes and we only have about a month of practice under our belts. That said, the next month and a half is crucial. We have some key components to work on if we want to reach the goals that we have set.”
Lemon said, “’How are you guys handling COVID?” has been the most common question he has had this season as a coach.
His response is: “It’s another box to check off on our list of things we have to take care of.”
Lemon said either people don’t know, or they have forgotten how much goes into wrestling before the student-athletes even get to wrestle in a match.
“You have to be at practice, potentially win a wrestle-off, pass a skin check, and make weight before you ever even get to compete,” Lemon said. “So with that long list of pre-competition checkboxes, the COVID restrictions are another box that we have to check off prior to competition. Probably the most difficult issue that we face is consistency. With students being quarantined due to potential exposure, it’s really difficult to get into the rhythm of getting a great week of practice in before competing.
“So far, our team has done a great job with complying and while wrestling is going to look different this year, we are ecstatic that we get to wrestle and will take advantage of the opportunity each time we get to step on the mat and compete.”