Heritage High wrestling coach Kevin Robinson could see in October he was going to have to change the timing that had always worked for his program.
The FHSAA moved the start and finish of wrestling season this year, delaying it by about a month. Instead of beginning as high school football players completed their fall seasons in early November, the first day of regular season wrestling was Dec. 1.
Instead of holding the annual Cape Coast Conference tournament in late January, it begins today, signaling the arrival of the sport’s postseason. District tournaments are next week, and the state meet will be March 13-14 in Lakeland.
“It’s definitely an adjustment,” Robinson said. “You can’t do what you did last year the same way you did it last year. You have to be able to peak at the right time.”
That is the trick coaches must solve in every sport. For wrestling, it is time to peak. The 14 schools of the CCC will compete at Bayside High beginning at 1:30 p.m. Wrestlers compete for championships of individual weight class brackets, compiling points toward a team title.
After four rounds today, surviving competitors will be back at Bayside at 9:30 Saturday morning for semifinal rounds, and those winners will compete for individual titles at approximately 5 p.m.
Because wrestling season started after the Heritage football team exited the playoffs, Robinson expects to have one wrestler today he might not have had otherwise. In past seasons in Florida, Panthers heavyweight Joe Lopez would have missed the first month of the wrestling season due to football. He then would have had to transition through conditioning for wrestling, not to mention working on the technique others would have already worked on for weeks.
By the time a new wrestler would have gotten into a rhythm, the wrestling postseason would have been approaching. Much of the Christmas holiday would have been spent practicing.
“I was able to give them nine days off at Christmas,” Robinson said. “They need that family time. Having that break will also bring some kids to wrestling.”
Titusville coach Scott Diesel has seen both sides of the change this year. Coaching both football and wrestling, he also had been used to an adjustment period that essentially shortened the wrestling season. This season has seemed longer to him, and he has seen that in his wrestlers.
“It really takes a toll on kids’ bodies,” Diesel said. “It’s a physically demanding sport.”
Diesel’s Terriers team will be largely intact for the conference meet this weekend, but several of the wrestlers have battled injuries.
“I’d go back to a shorter season, because it helps to prevent injuries,” he said.
Robinson said the new time frame will cause coaches to adjust their plans, both so wrestlers will avoid injuries where possible and so they’ll be peaking, beginning now.
“I didn’t see (injuries) any more this season,” he said. “This year, I actually gave my kids those days off (at Christmas), and I did that intentionally so they would come back fresh and make a charge at the end of the season.”
The test of that strategy begins today.
Want to go?
What: Cape Coast Conference wrestling
When: 1:30 p.m. today
Where: At Bayside High School, Palm Bay
Tickets: $4 adults, $2 students.