Let’s get ready to rumble

The wrestling team begins the season with goals in mind

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“Striving for perfection and achieving greatness” is the team’s mantra they hope to carry to a victory in the NCAA championships.

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“Everyone is just very hungry for success,” Grant Balconi, a fourth-year wrestler at 184 pounds, said.

The Blugold wrestling team has begun their season. One of the things they hope to accomplish is being taken more seriously by UW-Eau Claire, and “striving for perfection and achieving greatness” may be a way to do this, Balconi said.

The wrestling team’s record so far this season is 1-1, with the Blugolds winning 25-9 against UW-Oshkosh, but losing to UW-Lacrosse 25-12. The team has also participated in two tournaments, with several athletes placing in both tournaments. 

A typical practice for these young men starts with a light jog and dynamic movements, or stretches, Blaconi said. They then work on a series of gymnastics moves, such as rolls and cartwheels. 

Next would be stance and motion drills that help the athletes to work on maintaining position, or as he described it, “shadow wrestling.” Finally, they work on drills for different take-downs they use against their opponents.

Balconi said a strict diet is necessary for these athletes. His diet, he said, is based off of a popular fitness guru named Mike Dolce. For breakfast, he eats overnight oats, and for lunch on days that he is able to eat at home, he eats eggs and various vegetables. When he doesn’t have time to stop at home, he packs different meats, fruits and vegetables for himself.

Tim Fader, the Blugold wrestling head coach, said the team is using the 2018-19 season as a learning experience from which to grow and achieve greater things. Fader said the team was a lot younger than they could have hoped for last season, and this had put them at a disadvantage. Now, he said, they are all a little older.

“In wrestling, the difference between an 18-year-old man and a 22-year-old man can sometimes be significant,” Fader said.

A big difference between this season and last season is the brand new wrestling facility that was constructed, which is a sign that the university is starting to recognize them a lot more, Balconi said. 

Because they were not taken seriously, the team lacked focus, but has significantly improved this season with this newfound confidence, Balconi said.

So far this season, the athletes are making lots of improvements, something he could see early on, Fader said, and it is exciting for him to watch them get better in the span of one meet.

“As a team, I think we’re doing incredibly well,” Balconi said.

There are a few things the team is working to improve on, one of which would be keeping a “100 percent retention rate,” Balconi said. The season is long and grueling and they want to make sure that nobody quits in the middle of the season. 

Holding each other to a higher standard as well as supporting each other mentally and emotionally are aspects they are working on, Balconi said. By doing these things, the team believes that they will be able to reach their biggest goal: to be NCAA champions and become nationally recognized.

“The only way we’re going to achieve that is by holding ourselves to that standard,” Balconi said.

Wrestling has many more teams to face, with their next match being a tournament in Milwaukee on Dec. 7. 

Fader said they are focused on developing the Blugold wrestling program and adding new things, like the Blugold-hosted 8-man battles tournament this year, and not worrying too much about what the other teams are doing. 

“I think I’d keep the closest eye on our team,” Fader said.

 

Plueger can be reached at [email protected].