Unusual Offseason Prepares Confident Bobcat Wrestlers

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For Ohio Bobcats wrestling, intensity is not a choice, but a way of life – a requirement for wrestlers who want to improve themselves.  And even after an extremely successful 2013-2014 campaign, the men who will hit the mats this season know that even more will be expected from them.

That season will begin this weekend at the Michigan Sate Open, and the team knows they have to work harder than ever before.

"Just because you were good last year doesn't mean you're going to be better this year," head coach Joel Greenlee said.  "I think you need to do they same things but I think you need to do different things and work on getting better."

Something different Greenlee did this year was giving his wrestlers more time off in the summer. But once that resting period was over, it was time to put in work.  For Greenlee and his coaching staff, that meant getting creative with the team's workout regiment and giving them new ways to better the team and each individual wrestler. 

"If you want to be an All-American, if you want to be a national champion in this sport you have to be comfortable being uncomfortable," 157-pounder Sparty Chino said.

Some of those methods that get the team out of their comfort zone include swimming workouts, hill sprints and trail runs in addition to normal lifting and wrestling activities.

"It's extraordinarily tough because we're all characters of habit," Chino said.  "When you get asked to breast stroke, hex stroke, you can't do that.  When you get told to run through this trail in the mountains of Athens, totally different.  You don't know when it's going to end, you don't know how it's going to end. It's definitely a nice change of pace."

Ohio's 174-pounder Cody Walters welcomed that change of pace with open arms. The redshirt junior spent his entire summer in Athens, working hard to get back to the podium after the All-American fell short of it last season.

Walters never trained so differently.

"I did a lot of CrossFit [and] I did a lot of just unorthodox training," he said. "I did a lot of hill sprints, a lot of lifting, a lot of everything. I threw a lot at my body, just trying to keep confusion.

"Every workout is as hard as you want to make it. I love new ways to train. We did a thing in the summer where we were doing swim sprints. You were like ‘thank God we're in the pool' but we found ways to almost pass out in the pool. No matter what, as long as you're pushing yourself, new ways to train are always good."

Walters was able to dedicate his summer to training in Athens, but not every Bobcat could do the same. Phil Wellington, the Bobcats' 197-pounder, was in Cleveland over the summer working in an engineering co-op, but still found a way to improve his wrestling. Instead of working with fellow Bobcats, he trained with Cleveland State's wrestling team. He wrestled with the Vikings ' grapplers, and even sparred with their coaches.

"It's nice to work with coaches because they know wrestling," he said. "When I'm wrestling with them and I'm not doing the right thing they just stop, give you some instruction.

"And also I got to rest my body when I needed to because I was coming off of two knee surgeries, so I think the plan I had this summer really helped me.  Obviously they still hurt but its kind of mind over matter."

Offseason training can only go so far, and after a while it's time to get some live wrestling in actual competitions.

"I'm excited just for the fact that I can make a statement," Walters said.  "Since the day after nationals last year, I started tweeting how many days until nationals because I was so disappointed … When I get to that last day I don't expect anything less than being a national champion."

A national championship is a lofty goal, but it is certainly an attainable one for Walters and many of Ohio's wrestlers.

"I always say, ‘Shoot for the moon, you might end somewhere amongst the stars,'" Wellington said. "So I'm definitely planning on All-American and being a national champ.  I beat the national champ last year, I know I can do it again."

Although the Michigan State Open doesn't matter in team win or loss column, Greenlee knows that it will set the tone for a successful season for many of his wrestlers. With plenty of quality opponents to compete against, the tournament will help his team gauge their progress. A wrestler can come away from competition knowing they are on the right track, or realizing they have more work to do before their first dual meet.

So after months of preparation, pain and practice, the Bobcats will finally put their offseason work to the test and Chino, for one, is confident that he and his teammates will rise to the occasion.

"Joel, [and assitants] Kyle (Hansen), Germane (Lindsey), they push us to places no human being should go," he said. "I know that we're working harder than most teams out there. I think it's going to be awesome to see how the guys succeed this weekend."