Shorthanded Falcons are wrestling through obstacles this season
STRASBURG – Members of Central High School’s wrestling team have experienced their share of obstacles through the first half of the 2017-18 season.
Already battling the low participation numbers that have plagued the program in recent years, the Falcons also had to weather an early season coaching change after the quick departure of first-year head coach Kyle Wilson.
Explaining the coaching situation on Wednesday following a Bull Run District quad at Strasburg on Wednesday evening, Falcons’ acting head coach Greg Stickles said Wilson’s quick exit came after Stickles expressed to school administrators his concern for Wilson’s preparedness to lead Central’s wrestling program. Stickles assumed head coach responsibilities during the first week of December, he said, and the program has since added Justinian Capone, a former Cornell University wrestler, to the staff as an assistant coach.
Even so, senior heavyweight Ezra Smith said the Falcons, who went 1-2 against district competition on Wednesday evening, including a 24-12 win over Rappahannock County and losses to Strasburg (58-18) and George Mason (58-18), are taking the challenges in stride.
“As far as the coaching staff, our assistant coach who is now our head coach (Stickles), he really kept the ball rolling, and then when our assistant coach (Capone) came he picked it up, basically, even more,” Smith said. “So I don’t think we were at a disadvantage to start the season. … I just wish we had more people on the team, wish we had more matches, more tournaments, bigger tournaments. But it’s all just up in the air as far as how the season’s gonna go now. We’ve all gotta bear down and wrestle.”
It’ll be difficult for the Falcons to remain competitive in dual matches this season given the state of the team’s current roster, as Central entered wrestlers in only five of the 14 weight classes on Wednesday. But the Falcons could see plenty of postseason success at an individual level.
Smith and fellow junior Jacob Scibelli (138 pounds) are each coming off sixth-place finishes at the VHSL Group 2A state tournament last season. Scibelli, who is hunting his third straight state tournament appearance this year, said his pursuit should be helped by the addition of Capone.
“He’s been really drilling some new moves and some new techniques that we aren’t really used to,” Scibelli said, adding that Capone’s coaching style isn’t all that different from that of former head coach Michael Sanders, who also had college wrestling experience. “I really like that because it opens up more wrestling moves for me and more options that I can hit during matches to help me become more successful.”
Capone’s lessons in technique are only part of what he’s hoping to bring to Central’s wrestling team. He’s trying to teach the Falcons a winning mindset, as well.
“It’s more mental than anything else,” Capone said. “If they believe they can take it all the way to the state finals and win, and they put the effort in, then they can do it and win.”
The Falcons have been receptive to Capone’s teaching. Stickles, who admitted that he’s more comfortable in an assistant role (he served in that capacity for Sanders the previous two seasons), said he’s happy to have someone with Capone’s wrestling background available to offer valuable insight during practice.
“That’s why I was glad to have coach Capone to come out in his capacity and really teach the boys, and the boys really respect him,” said Stickles, who added that most of his knowledge of technique is limited to heavyweights. “That’s what I’ve asked of the boys from day one, is that they show coach Capone the utmost respect as they would show me.”
All things considered, Stickles said, things have gone well for the Falcons despite the early speed bumps.
“Once we got that initial week down and coach Capone has learned the boys and the boys have learned him, everything has gone much smoother for us,” Stickles said. “I’d say we’re progressing. As I tell him, I wish we’d had him from the beginning of the season. I think we’d be farther along. But the boys are progressing very well.”