NORTH CANTON Hoover wrestling has a lot of new faces and a few lineup spots to fill.
The Vikings have a few top competitors back from last season, including senior state qualifier Luke Reicosky, but will count on incoming freshmen and several wrestlers new to the varsity level to round out the rotation.
"Luke’s best asset is his speed … he’s very good at taking shots and responding quickly when other guys try to shoot on him," Hoover head coach Nick Gamble said.
He believes that Reicosky will wrestle at either 170 pounds or 182 pounds this season, but knows the veteran will be strong in either weight class. What he doesn’t know is how the four freshmen vying for openings at 120 and 126 pounds will shape up and which members of that group will claim a starting spot.
Among the returning letterwinners, Ben Smith is another experienced competitor who worked hard as an individual this offseason and according to Gamble, learned a lot from his trip to Fargo, N.D., for the Cadet and Junior National Championships.
Smith wrestled well and advanced several rounds before losing and Gamble wants to see Smith translate that experience to the mat this winter.
As the wrestlers wind their way through the preseason, Gamble is trying to get them to lock in and mind the details as they try to get ready for the start of the season.
"We just wanted them to get focused and get back to doing the little things. A lot of times, making sure your locker room is clean is just as important as working on your technique on the mat," Gamble said.
That sort of small-scale approach might seem out of order, but back in the 1980s, when officials in New York City wanted to improve safety and reduce crime on the city’s subway system, one of the most effective approaches was to do something as small as regularly cleaning up graffiti on trains and in stations, with the idea that paying attention to the small stuff filtered into every area.
If the Vikings can take that attention to detail and apply it, Gamble believes, it will help them on the mat.
"We’re doing some strength training and technique work three days a week," Gamble said.
Much of the strength and conditioning work the Vikings have done is using a similar system as the Ohio State wrestling team uses. Because wrestling season is a long, physical grind and the sport itself is extremely grating on the body, being ready for the year is vital. Regaining health and strength during the season is extremely difficult, so being in top form at the outset is the goal.
There will be several league and nonleague tests for Hoover, including its annual tilt with league and state power Perry, a matchup with rival Jackson and Hoover’s own holiday tournament. The tournament draws some of the top teams from the region and because it’s a precursor to the Top Gun tournament at Alliance, it’s a good chance to see where a team stands as tournament season begins.
By the time the tournament arrives, Gamble and his staff would like to have their lineup questions answered, but the veteran coach knows it could take a bit of time to sift through all of the data, see how each newcomer performs early in the year and decide how to proceed.
For now, the Vikings are content to go through the process of training, strengthening and getting mentally ready for what they hope will be a winning season and one that will allow them to send both Reicosky and some of his teammates to Columbus to vie for a state title in March.
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