The 13 souls that comprise Polk County Middle School’s wrestling team this season are learning a great deal about the sport.
And learning a lot about life.
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Wins and losses are far too often the measuring stick by which athletic teams are judged. Sporting events are, after all, competitions, games held for the purpose of a result. Victors are celebrated, those suffering defeat left to question what they could have done to change the outcome.
All of which makes what Polk Middle’s wrestlers are doing every day all the more remarkable. The Wolverines didn’t win a match last season and began this season knowing that victory would also be unlikely this year, given the number of forfeits the team would have at each match plus inexperience at many weight classes.
“We told them before the season that there was a really good chance that we won’t win any matches,” said Polk Middle assistant coach Dustin Stott. “The goal was for them to prove themselves, to improve and to get as many people in the conference championships as we could. We wanted to help them grow as wrestlers and help them grow as people.”
The season has offered ample opportunity for the latter. Through eight matches, Polk County has yet to score more than 12 points in a match and yet to give up fewer than 75. Monday’s home match with Brevard Middle ended in an 88-6 loss, Aaron Henderson providing all the Polk points with a pin.
But the Wolverines continue to show up for every practice and every match and continue to work every day to improve. Polk County Middle principal Hank Utz marvelled Monday at the Wolverines’ work ethic, noting he suggested the team take a recent Friday off, only to have team members ask to practice.
“Top to bottom, every person on this team wants it. They want to try to better themselves and improve,” Stott said. “They all get upset when they lose, but they keep after it.
“I’m proud of them. They work hard and they listen well.”
Stott knows a thing or two about hard work as well – a volunteer assistant, he juggles practice time along with his full-time job at Tindall Concrete and a newborn in the family. With first-year head coach Jason Flynn currently away for a few days on military duty, Stott has been doing double duty.
“I love the sport and I love teaching kids,” Stott said. “Wrestling keeps kids out of trouble. It did for me. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the sport.
“They say that once you wrestle, you can handle almost anything.”
Including handling a season where victory has proved fleeting.
Just as true winners do.
2015-16 Polk County Middle School Wrestling