The Lancaster wrestling program wants to be thought of as elite. Considering the Gales sent eight wrestlers to district and three to the state meet in March, they can make a strong case.
However, the team’s wrestling room at Stanberry School was not indicative of a top-notch program.
“Our wrestling room itself was one of the worst that I’ve seen,” coach Jon Spires said. “(It) was not fit for our athletes to practice and compete in.”
The decision was made in May the room needed to be completely refurbished. The team will start this year with new, more cushioned mats, new carpet and fresh paint as well as more technological assets in the coaches room.
“It shows that the athletes are cared for and that people are concerned about their well-being and want them to succeed,” Spires said. “Anytime someone shows that investment in you, you want to be able to return it. All of our athletes are so excited.”
The refurbishments, paid for by Lancaster City School’s and installed by the district’s maintenance staff, provide an upgrade in safety for the team. The new mats provide an extra inch of cushioning compared to the old, Spires said. It not only makes the athletes safer, but allows them to take the risks necessary to improve as a wrestler.
While the custom mats featuring the mascot and blue and gold paint add a spirited touch to the room, the focus is on tradition.
Pictures of all the program’s state qualifiers are on the wall, and boards of the Gales statistical leaders also are present.
“Everything in our room is based on our wrestling program from 1967 on up. Nothing is on the wall unless it is state level,” Spires said. “Having that whole thing based on tradition, that is a top-notch room for our youth and our junior high kids to see every day.”
The coaching room also received updates. For the first time, Spires and his staff will be equipped with a computer, a phone line and a projector. Spires is a big proponent of watching film and the new technology will allow the team to do so as a group in the coaches office. Previously, team members either watched film individually on school-issued iPads or the team would relocate to watch together.
“It’s a better atmosphere and a more upgraded feel which helps our athletes want to be there,” the Gales coach said. “You are excited to get better and it’s easier to get better.”
Spires modeled the room in part after college facilities he has seen and now said it is on par with other elite programs around the state. The Gales will try to live up to the high standards tradition-rich wrestling room this winter.