A winning philosophy adopted by the three Deerfield High School wrestlers competing in the State Meet which opens today at Champaign’s Assembly Hall may make the difference between a championship and a consolation prize
Andrew Mehrholz (106 pounds), Ari Sapinsley (152) and Jim Kirby (195) carry the Warrior hopes into the tournament which lasts through Saturday. Now the competition becomes more intense and they have a secret weapon.
“We have to wrestle to win and not wrestle not to lose,” Mehrholz said. “In the end that’s who wins the match.”
Mehrholz, a freshman with a 39-2 record on the season and the third seed in his weight class, has firsthand experience with the philosophy. He has never competed against the top seeded Miguel Silva of Plainfield South but he had a bout with second seeded Randy Yates of New Trier in an offseason tournament.
“I was leading 3-0 (late in the match), keeping (safe) and he put me on my back,” Mehrholz said. That time he was wrestling not to lose and he does not plan to let that happen again. Kirby and Sapinsley echo their teammate.
“That says it all,” Sapinsley said. “We’ve been trying to do that all year.”
Coach Marc Pechter puts the Warriors in circumstances in practice to get them in the habit of being continually on the attack rather than trying to protect a lead.
“We put the team in situations in practice like it will happen in a match,” Pechter said. He may have the wrestlers practice a takedown rather than holding a foe at bay. “It’s not just technique but strategy.”
Kirby, like Sapinsley a senior, has absorbed Pechter’s ideas over his Warrior tenure. “I spent all summer and fall working with (Assistant Coach) Aaron Cohen,” Kirby said. “We worked on technique.” He learned something else. “It’s matt sense, awareness.”
In addition to Mehrholz, Kirby is 35-8 for the season and Sapinsley 34-11. Those records help them develop the mindset they need to win a state championship. “The coaches tell us the magic number is 10,” Mehrholz said. “We have to win 10 straight.”
Ten is the number of wins—three in the Regional, three in the Sectional and four at State—a wrestler needs to become champion. Only one per weight class will do that by the time the competition is over in Champaign. They all want to be the one.
“All of us have won 10 straight at some point in the season,” Sapinsley said explaining why the goal is attainable rather than daunting.
Pechter believes the three are ready to perform their best. “They’re confident, not cocky,” Pechter said. “There’s a difference.”