At the onset of their wrestling season, the Varsity Golden Falcons are poised for success: they’ve got a strong coaching team, wrestlers in 13 out of the 15 weight classes, and a defending state champion on the roster. Head coach Drew Wilcox opened up to the Jamestown Gazette about the mental game of wrestling, how he balances team play versus individuality, and why his motto for the boys this year is a simple number: 353.
Cortney: How is your team looking this year?
Coach Wilcox: We’re excited about this season. We’ve had a few issues with kids not coming out, so we’re a guy or two shorter than we thought we might be, but that doesn’t change our goals. We still think we’re one of the best Division II schools in New York State, and our goal is still to be state champions this year.
Cortney: Let’s talk about Jacob Peru [defending state champion at 182 pounds; recipient of a full Division I college scholarship]. He’s had so much success at Falconer, but now he’s entering into his last season with you. What kind of impact has he had on the wrestling program?
Coach Wilcox: Jake’s had awesome success. He’s had 174 career wins, which is 11 shy of a school record, so he’s going to get that this year. He’s returning state champ, he’s headed to the University of Binghamton next year on a full wrestling scholarship – so it has a huge impact on the program. I think kids now see that with hard work they can be successful. The scholarship is especially opening people’s eyes that, wow, there are opportunities in the sport of wresting. Although there’s not a professional league where you can make a ton of money, wrestling can give you a free education, and that’s a pretty good dang deal.
Cortney: How do you manage coaching an entire team of boys when wrestling is really such an individual sport?
Coach Wilcox: We kind of see it as two seasons: you’ve got your team season, which is just the regular season, and you’ve got your individual season, which is the post-season. In the beginning we don’t really talk about individual goals: our goal is to get better as individuals in order to help the team. The kids really do buy into that team mentality. Then, once the regular season ends, we focus on individual goals. As a coach, though, you are always trying to help each kid improve, whether he’s your best wrestler or your worst wrestler. Sometimes that means helping them improve mentally, sometimes that means helping them improve technically – you just have to gauge what each kid needs to work on. And if you can help kids get better throughout the course of the season individually, then you’re really going to have a team success too.
Cortney: You mentioned helping the kids with the mental game. How much of wrestling do you think is mental? And how do you train for that?
Coach Wilcox: Honestly, I’d say about 90 percent is mental. When people think they can do something, their bodies are going to respond to that. As far as how we prepare mentally, I think these guys know that there’s no one in New York State working any harder than they are, and it’s a huge mental advantage to know that. At the same time, some kids need a push to make them mentally tougher, maybe to be yelled at a little bit. Other kids need confidence and they need you as a coach to help them create that confidence. Everybody’s different.
Cortney: You’ve got your first matches coming up this weekend. In the locker room beforehand, what are you going to say to the team? What’s your message?
Coach Wilcox: We’ve actually already started to express our message, and that message is “353.” That’s how many miles it is from Falconer to Albany, where states is held. We have one goal this year and that’s to take our whole team to states. Whoever’s crowned state champions gets to bring their whole team to Albany, stay in a hotel for the night, and get recognized before the state finals. So that’s our biggest goal this year. 353.
Falconer competed in eight dual meets against Sweet Home this past weekend. At the time of press, there were no results. Their next match will be held Thursday, Dec. 8 against Maple Grove, at home.
To read more of Cortney Linnecke’s creative and informative contributions to the Jamestown Gazette, please go to www.jamestowngazette.com.