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“The Press Box” for March 24, 2021

By Randy Rutherford - Staff Writer | Mar 24, 2021

I will be the first to admit I don’t know squat about wrestling. My very limited knowledge goes back to 1998 and my then preteen son’s obsession with fake wrestling. You know the kind. WWF’s Stone Cold Steve Austin versus Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the guy with the signature eyebrow move. My son, Troy, used to get so mad at me when I would try to imitate The Rock making that face. I did it just to get his goat of course. It still makes me smile just thinking about it today.

But today I will also admit I am learning. I am learning about the excitement and difficult work that goes with real high school wrestling. I have gotten to know TCHS Head Wrestling Coach Paden Morris, and his knowledge and legitimate love for the sport are contagious. So if you are anything at all like me, and don’t have firsthand experience watching, cheering or raising a real wrestler, please come along for the ride. Coach Morris can coach us up together.

Wrestle. The word means to struggle with difficulty or take part in a fight. When looking online for information about the roots of the sport of wrestling, I found out it goes back to ancient times. Most early cultures had some form of unarmed contest in which two individuals competed in a display of dominance and strength. Ancient noblemen and militaries throughout history trained their soldiers in this sport. It tutors them in tactical maneuvering, teaches the importance of speed and deception in war and develops mental and physical strength. All of these components are vital to a successful wrestler.

The wrestling program at Tyler Consolidated was a continuation of a program begun in the late 1980s at Sistersville High School by the much loved and admired Coach Larry Ritchie. Coach Richie was also the author of a long running wrestling column in the Tyler Star News. He always closed the column with “Wrestle For Fun” which was his trademark style of coaching. He retired from teaching in 2010. Coach Richie led 17 athletes to place winners at the WV State Wrestling tournament, including two state champions: Jason Snider in 1999, 152 lbs. and Cullen Grover in 2009, 215 lbs.

Over the last several years in memorial to Coach Richie, Tyler Consolidated has hosted a tournament in his name, and hopefully it will return for the 2021-2022 season.

Fast forward to March of 2021 and you will find new Head Coach Paden Morris at the helm of the Silver Knights wrestling team. Coach Morris’s passion for wrestling was sparked by his father and uncle who were both WV State and OVAC Champions at John Marshall High School in Moundsville, WV. Coach Morris also wrestled for John Marshall High School where he was a four year varsity letterman and a WV State OVAC place winner in 2009.

Upon his high school graduation, Coach Morris continued his education at West Liberty University, but quickly got involved in coaching. This will be Paden’s 12th year coaching the sport of wrestling but his first as a head coach in a program. Coach Morris is hopeful he can bring much of the knowledge he has gleaned throughout his career of competing for and coaching under four WV Wrestling Hall of Fame inducted coaches to the Silver Knights.

So here are some of the basics to begin to understand high school wrestling. That old saying of “The more you know, the more you will enjoy!” will certainly apply in this sport. Most sports have two scoring opportunities – offense and defense. Wrestling has three scoring positions – offense, defense and neutral.

A “match or bout” in high school consists of three two-minute periods. The first period begins in neutral position with both wrestlers on their feet and facing each other. The second period begins with one wrestler choosing top, bottom, neutral, or deferring choice until the third period. The third period begins with the other wrestler choosing top, bottom, or neutral position.

The objective in a wrestling match is, of course, to beat your opponent. If a pin occurs, the match is over instantly and whoever scored the pin wins. But if neither wrestler scores a pin, the score at the end of the three two-minute periods determines the winner. You earn points for the different moves you successfully execute during a match, and your opponent can earn points for any penalties you commit.

Coach Paden gave me the lowdown on scoring in wrestling. Here are the opportunities as follows:

Takedown, when you take someone from their feet to the mat in a controlled position, is worth 2 points.

Escape, when you escape from the down position on the mat to get away and back to your feet, is worth 1 point.

Reversal, when you reverse the position on the mat from bottom position to top position, is worth two points.

Near falls, these occur when you expose your opponent’s back to the mat for a count of 2 seconds to 5 seconds. 2-4 seconds is worth 2 points while a full five seconds is worth 3 points. There are also a variety of penalty points.

One subject that continued to pop up as I researched wrestling was references to mental toughness, which is a learned skill that you can achieve through habit and practice. It calls for using your brain to gain success over your environment. I asked Coach Morris about this and how he mentally prepares his athletes. “In terms of mental motivation for a wrestler before a match I believe that all starts in the practice room. The tone, pace, and plan you put forth in practice is what gets carried over to match day. Once match day arrives it’s just a matter of flipping that switch,” explained Coach Morris. He went on to share he believes each athlete is different, some like to stay loose and calm, and others embrace the intensity of what’s to come. Paden feels it’s just a matter of knowing your athlete and what you’ve done in the practice room up to that point.

Another thing I was surprised to learn was the Silver Knights film matches. Coach Morris, his staff and the wrestling team all have access to the film. Coach Morris pointed out, “Wrestling is such an intense and in the moment sport, having the film to look back at a moment or a situation allows us to take that and relive it in the practice room. That’s when and where we can make the improvements that need to be made from our evaluation of film.” He also added that every wrestler has tendencies and it tells in their style, and watching film can help a wrestler hide their own and expose their opponents.

Like all sports there are life lessons to learn from participating in wrestling. I questioned Coach Morris about how the sport had impacted his life. “I’m a believer that there is no other sport like wrestling. It takes a special individual to commit to a sport that demands so much from you,” believes the coach. He went on to share his feelings that wrestling has given him more than he could ever hope to give back. Coach Morris believes the sport has taught him discipline and how to win with class and lose with pride, and most importantly how to believe in himself. “It’s an old saying that after wrestling, everything else is easy. Being a wrestler, having that mentality, has definitely contributed to achieving and still striving for the goals I have set for myself,” acknowledged the coach.

In closing this Press Box, maybe you feel as I did, that wrestling sometimes takes a back seat to basketball during the winter season, but hopefully I have opened the door for more people to become invested in our wrestling team at TCHS and the growth and success they are experiencing. The coaching staff is generating true excitement around their program. You can feel the electricity in the gym during matches. Coach Morris believes wrestling has been his blueprint for success in life. I’m here to tell you, I am climbing on board, too. I think we are going to see great things grow from this hard working staff and dedicated wrestling athletes. To be continued.