Many coaches think the best way to figure out what kind of team they have is to test them early and often.
Anthony Shingler, head coach, Fort Campbell Falcons wrestling team, took it a step further as he allowed his team to be tested all last season.
“We had a brutal schedule last year, which I think will clear the path for us this season,” said Shingler. “Last year, we were very young and lacked experience, but this season, we’re young with experience and I expect us to improve each day.”
Shingler said he’s also figured out that he gets the most out of his kids when he’s encouraging them through the testing.
“I let them know it’s OK to make a mistake early in the season because we can fix it and make sure it doesn’t happen again,” he added.
Shingler saw the fruit of pushing and encouraging his team at the Fort Campbell Falcons Quad meet Dec. 1.
Joining them on the mat in the Falcons’ gymnasium was rival-Trigg County, Hopkinsville and Clarksville Academy.
“I knew coming into the match that Trigg County was going to be our toughest challenge,” said Shingler. “They brought back a lot of talent, but we were able to take care of business and squeeze out a 39-36 win.”
“An event like our Quad tells me if our conditioning level is where it needs to be,” said Shingler. “Three matches back-to-back-to-back can be very demanding and it tells me what I need to do, as well.”
Falcons’ wrestlers, Tim Nikolao, Ernesto Tellez, David Sahms, Jerry Haywood and Ki Ryder all posted victories against Trigg County opponents during the Quad meet.
Nikolao is wrestling for the first time in two seasons and definitely gives the Fort Campbell Wrestling team quite a boost.
“It felt great getting back on the mat…it’s been too long,” said Nikolao, who posted a victory over Tim Greer of Trigg County and Sean Castleberry of Clarksville Academy in the 285-pound weight class.
Nikolao’s leadership and toughness is most-welcomed by Shingler to the 2011 lineup.
Shingler is counting on maturity and experience to help the Falcons produce wins this season.
One of those who joins Nikolao in the experienced ranks is Jerry Haywood, 145-pound weight class, who also posted a win against Trigg County opponent, Ryan Gallogly.
“I think we wrestled very well last night and we just have to iron some things out,” Haywood added. “If we keep building on the ability this team has, I see us going very far this season.”
Nikolao and Haywood are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Falcons’ upper-classmen grapplers who can also make some noise.
David Sahms, Gino Haywood, Anthony DeWitt, Josh Green, Jared Franklin and Ki Ryder also give the Falcons a chance to be a force in the Kentucky High School Athletic Association’s 3-A wrestling classification.
Shingler said his team, as a whole, has work to do, but he’s pleased with where they are early in the season.
“After squeezing by Trigg, I felt our effort against Hoptown was where it needed to be and we wrestled decent in most weights,” added Shingler. “Clarksville Academy was a good opportunity for our young guys to get some experience, too.”
Speaking of the younger guys, Ernesto Tellez, fought through some visible nerves to gain a victory.
Nighell Davidson, another youngster, can also be a force for the Falcons once he learns to contain his energy and turn his raw athleticism into skill.
“We have only three seniors on the whole team, the rest are underclassmen,” said Shingler. “I have to coach those young guys a lot different than the returners who have experience.”
The younger wrestlers who competed in the Quad along with Tellez and Davidson are Christian Vasquez, Hunter Duplessis, Enrique Martinez and Hunter Peterson.
Shingler said he’s harder on the returners to improve each day and encourages the young guys that are just beginning to comprehend the sport.
“The young guys are the future of the program and we have to build from the ground up to become a competitive team year in and year out,” said Shingler.
After the Quad, the Falcons traveled to the Harpeth Invitational, a tough test, where they finished 7th as a team with DeWitt placing 2nd in 113-pound weight class and Sahms, 4th in the 132-pound weight class.
“We wrestled well and if a few matches had fallen our way, we could have had four or five kids place,” said Shingler. “Overall, I’m happy with the effort, but we have some true tests coming up with Hendersonville and Harpeth and at the Tullahoma Duals.”
Shingler’s enthusiasm can’t be contained when he’s coaching his players in the middle of a match.
“I get more fired up now as a coach than as a wrestler because everything revolves around the team and not just a few individuals,” he said. “If the kids succeed, it means I did my job.”
A job Shingler proudly takes home with him.
“During the season, I rarely sleep because I’m always looking at ways to make us better as a team,” he added. “This is Fort Campbell’s first 3-0 start since 2007, too.”