Wrestling team continues tradition with Manchester
By Evan Pajer - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Thu., Feb. 7, 2013
On Feb. 7, the varsity wrestling team from East Hartford High School met Manchester for its last match of the season, continuing a 17-year tradition between the two schools and ending East Hartford's season with an 8-14 record.
The two towns have held their final match of the season together since 1995, when an owner of Gunver Manufacturing Co. in Manchester donated a trophy with the intent of having a match between the two towns each year. "One of the Gunver owners used to wrestle for me. He was a captain and my assistant," coach Steve Konopka said. Konopka explained that the yearly match has become a tradition in both East Hartford and Manchester, and has since evolved to encompass two awards for individual wrestlers, with one for each town.
One problem, Konopka said, is that the team's roster is not full - a fact that was clearly showcased at the match with Manchester, where the team lost a match by default because they did not have a wrestler in the match's weight class. "We have the C rule at East Hartford High School, and not everyone who wants to wrestle can because of their grades," Konopka said. "It's a wonderful thing to promote education, but it can make things difficult. We don't have anyone over 170 pounds right now."
Konopka said the team will work on filling its roster next year, something he believes will be the key to improving their performance. "The key to wrestling is to have a full roster and have your weaker wrestlers win," Konopka said. Konopka said the team will work on getting more students eligible to wrestle for next year, and he has also worked on getting a wrestling program in place at the town's middle school, in addition to a program for young children at the high school. "We're starting a little kids club to get kids into it. The kids and their parents love it," Konopka said.
Going into the Central Connecticut Conference tournament, Konopka said the team will continue to focus on improvement. "It's too late for me to introduce anything new to training," he said. "We'll hopefully do what we're doing, but a little bit better. We'll make sure we have our weight and conditioning right."
Konopka said that the program's greatest strength is that many of the players are still young. "We still have plenty of time to grow," he said. Konopka said the younger players are still learning the basics of the sport, and that their skill will grow with time. "We didn't throw in legs because we didn't work it," he said. "What I was working on was teaching the basics of wrestling and getting them a good basic idea of conditioning for sports." Konopka said he also tries to get his players to branch out into other sports. "I don't want East Hartford High School to be a great wrestling school and nothing else. I want us to be a good all-around school," he said.
Although the match marked the final home match for Manchester, it also marks the last regular season match for four seniors on the East Hartford team. Daniel House, one of the team's seniors, said that while he enjoyed wrestling under Konopka, he does not plan to continue wrestling in college. "I'm going to attend Lincoln Technical Institute for culinary studies," he said.