Woodstock Academy wrestling takes early loss; will focus on practice and attitude

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Woodstock - posted Tue., Dec. 27, 2011
A Woodstock Academy wrestler starts his match. Photos by D. Coffey
A Woodstock Academy wrestler starts his match. Photos by D. Coffey

The Woodstock Academy wrestling team lost to Bacon Academy on Dec. 21 by a score of 17-60. The wide margin wasn't as much a concern for first-year head coach Michael LaBeef as was the attitude of his wrestlers. And he was pleased with that.

“As long as the kids are coming out and giving 100 percent,” he said, “as long as they are working hard, that's all I'm concerned about. My goal here is improvement.”

LaBeef is working with a young Centaur team, and most of the team members have little wrestling experience. Of 15 wrestlers, only a few are upperclassmen, which is fine with LaBeef. He expects that by the time they become juniors and seniors, they will have a good understanding of what he expects from them.

Right now the coach is focusing on the basics, which all comes down to practice, practice, practice. “You wrestle the way you practice,” he said. “It's a lot of repetition. If we're in practice every day beating the snot out of each other, then it's going to translate over to our matches. You need to hit a move a thousand times in practice before you can hit it in a match.”

The first-year coach ought to know: He was an ECC Class M state champion while a student at Killingly High School. “I know what it takes to get there,” he said. “My father has been my coach for my entire life. I've adopted a lot of styles that he gave me.”

He also credits the youth wrestling program in Killingly for providing key opportunities for learning the sport. LaBeef started wrestling when he was 9 years old so that by the time he reached high school, he already had years of experience under his belt. This year's team has a few wrestlers from Killingly, which LaBeef said will be helpful. “You've got these kids coming into high school with a little bit of knowledge,” he said. “I don't have to work on the basics with them, so we're ahead of the game.”

Even with the loss, LaBeef was pleased with what he saw. “I think everybody did okay,” he said. “Obviously we have some work to do.” He says attitude is one of the most important factors he will have his wrestlers work on. “I tell my kids, ‘You got to dictate the pace of the match. You got to be the one in control.’ Way too often, we're the ones getting pushed around. We've got to be the ones moving our guys around. That's what it all comes down to. You got to be the one controlling his body movements. You don't want him controlling where you're going, because then he's going to know where you're going and he'll predict what moves he can make.”

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