“If you do not have the right mindset, the right attitude and approach, that is going to take away from talent. This is a very physical sport, but when two guys are equal, it is the one who is mentally more prepared who is going to win every time.”
So said Perry wrestling head coach Trevor Kittleson during a recent mid-season interview on the state of his Bluejay matmen.
“I like the way the guys are going about their business,” Kittleson said. “I have wanted them to take personal ownership of their season, to make their own goals and not worry about what I expect of them and I am pleased to see it starting to happen.”
Perry has not been without some misfortune, as 132-pounder and three-time state qualifier Kade VanKirk has yet to see the mat this season while battling a nagging injury.
“We should have Kade back when we start up again,” Kittleson said. “He has been working hard and I expect him to soldier through.”
Zach Thompson should also return after missing some time with appendicitis. The sophomore (113 pounds) was sixth at state last season.
“It will just depend on how soon he returns to full strength,” his coach said. “I know how eager he is to get back up to speed.”
There could be some lineup changes at various weights as Kittleson looks to maximize the possibilities at each slot.
“We might move Gisaveri Niyibizi down to 120 from 126, but I would not say that is for sure,” the coach stated. “There are a few other spots that might see some shuffling, but, overall, I think we are pretty well set.”
One spot that is certainly secure is at 170 pounds, where senior Eli Saemisch has powered out to an 18-3 record, with 14 of those wins coming by pin.
“It is good to see Eli completely healthy this year,” Kittleson said. “He has been on a mission and it shows. His work ethic has been great and his mind is in the right place. I am looking forward to seeing what he can down the line.”
Freshman Kaleb Olejniczak (106) has shown the promise expected of him. Now 17-2, he has eight wins via pin, with two others by technical fall and four by major decision.
“He just goes about his business,” Kittleson noted. “He wrestles with a great deal of confidence and is a great listener and is very coachable. Kaleb could definitely make some noise for us at the end of the year.”
Kittleson said the biggest surprise is junior Adan Medina, who is competing in his first season as a prep and who is 12-9 with 10 pins at 182 pounds. Others have caught the coach’s eye as well.
“We have some guys that, you look at their record, and maybe you are not blown away, but they are showing promise,” Kittleson said. “It is all about how you finish. Are you better today than you were yesterday? We have a lot of guys that the answer would be ‘yes’ and as a coach that is exactly what I am looking for.”
Perry returns to the mat Saturday at the Des Moines Lincoln Tournament. The team will benefit from a home-heavy schedule that will have the Jays on their own mats for one Thursday triangular as well as for a stretch of three-of-four Saturdays as they host their own tourney, the Raccoon River Conference tourney and the Sectional tourney.
“Sometimes that bothers guys, because they feel extra pressure to perform in front of the home crowd,” Kittleson said. “I think we are getting to the place mentally where we will see this as I do, as an advantage. Let the other guys travel and bounce around on the bus … we will be here waiting for them.”