By Ted Waddell
LIBERTY January 7, 2003 In years past, folks thought of high school wrestlers as a bunch of guys rolling around on a mat trying to pin each other for a win.
But scholastic varsity wrestling is not just for guys anymore at least at Liberty Central School. For the past couple of years two young ladies Lauren Michaud and Andrea Stabak have taken to the mats as part of the Liberty Indians varsity wrestling program under the tutelage of veteran Coach John Lennon and Assistant Coach Shane Connor.
In other words, referring to local wrestlers as matmen is a thing of the politically incorrect past.
For the 2002-2003 winter sports season, Liberty and Monticello are the only Sullivan County high schools fielding varsity teams. Waiting in the wings is a jayvee squad at Eldred, which expects to field a varsity wrestling team next year.
Lennon has been coaching wrestling at LCS for 20 years. He was the varsity wrestling coach at Jeffersonville-Youngsville for two seasons before taking over the Indians wrestling program.
His take of the 2002-2003 wrestling season?
Its shaping up pretty much as it always does, Lennon replied. We have a few good guys, and everybody else is either new or coming up as intermediates.
According to Lennon, after talking with a lot of other high school wrestling coaches, the consensus of opinion is that it all boils down to kids who are highly-motivated and very self-disciplined.
You have to be disciplined to step out there, he said. Theres no place to hide . . . its physical, but its a lot more mental.
Liberty lost its first meet of the season back on December 18 to Newburgh. The Indians forfeited four out of 13 matches in a 73-0 defeat. But they did fairly well in terms of 2nd, 3rd and 4th place finishes.
On the team picture, youre not going to win when you give up a lot of forfeits, but in the big picture, the guys do fairly well, said Lennon.
According to the seasoned coach, fewer kids are going out for wrestling today than ever before.
You could almost see Lennon shake his head over the phone as he added, Its about the ethics of work and discipline. A lot of kids just dont want to work that hard.
Their peers let them down by not going out for the sport.
Lennon said that the Liberty grapplers to watch this season are Anthony Couitt, Chris Kuznir, Dan Ratner, John Wagner and Woodrow Wilson.
The 2002-2003 Liberty varsity wrestling squad is comprised of four seniors, four juniors, one sophomore, a six-pack of freshmen and a lone eighth-grader.
He said he looks for matches in which the Indians wrestlers can gain valuable mat-time.
Without the numbers in wrestling, its pretty hard to have a big team score, he said. But everybody gets something out of it.
Lennon thinks the modified program is doing just fine under coach Scott Robisch as a conduit for feeding new wrestlers into the varsity team.
Shane Connor has served as second-in-command of the varsity squad for two years.
Hes a big help, said Lennon.
When asked to provide a thumbnail sketch of the Liberty varsity wrestling programs philosophy, Lennon had a simple reply.
If there is no pain, theres no gain, he said.
The 2002-2003 LCS
Chris Kuznir (senior, 160-171 lbs.)
Doing really well [and] looking for a good season . . . blew his knee out in the second match last year, so he lost a years experience . . . good mental attitude and frame of mind.
Dan Ratner (senior, 125-130 lbs.) Started in our 8th grade program . . . looking real good . . . worked out with weights all summer.
Andrea Stabak (senior, 145-152 lbs.) Third year out for the team . . . doing well.
John Wagner (senior, 140-145 lbs.) Doing fairly well . . . really coming along from where he started; came out of nowhere and liked the sport . . . three years in the program.
Anthony Couitt (junior, 171-189 lbs.) Had some prior wrestling experience . . . really starting to develop.
Mark LaGatutta (junior, 125-130 lbs.) Fourth year . . . doing real well . . . kind of a surprise thing, but he placed in the region last year . . . this year got off to a shaky start because of early season illness, but looking real good.
Lauren Michaud (junior, 125-130 lbs.) Wrestling real well . . . [Its] pretty tough to be a girl in a boys sport [but she] handles it real well . . . had some close matches and scared some guys.
Woodrow Wilson (junior, 119-125 lbs.) Has been with the program five years, and comes from a long line of Wilson wrestlers on the team [Hes] working on a few things like the speed at which he wrestles . . . should have a good season.
Peter Pekny (sophomore, 215 lbs.) Four years on the team . . . at practice on a regular basis.
Justin Earl (freshman, 125 lbs.) Moved up from the modified program . . . very inexperienced, but doing well.
Kyle Farrand (freshman, 112-119 lbs.) Just coming off modified [and] having a little weight [class] problem . . . if he can get to 112, should do fairly well . . . up at 119, hes been getting whupped up on pretty bad.
Robert Silva (freshman, 215 lbs.) Two years on the modified [team] . . . problem making the transition from modified to varsity because of our lack of team depth.
David Brown (freshman, 152-160 lbs.) First year . . . no matches yet.
Juan Lopez (freshman, 189-215 lbs.) A couple of years on the modified squads . . . just coming up to the varsity level.
Anthony Martinez (freshman, 152-160 lbs.) New to the varsity program.
Joe Torres (8th grader, 125 lbs.) On the DL (disabled) list right now.
Notes: The Indian grapplers are scheduled to compete tonight at Washingtonville.
The annual Liberty Wrestling Tournament, which historically features wrestling squads from here in Section IX as well as neighboring Section IV, is set for Saturday, January 18. Action is slated to begin at 9 a.m.