PUNXSUTAWNEY — The Punxsy wrestling team will be the first to admit that it isn't as technically-sound as District IX Class AAA rivals Clearfield and DuBois.
To make up for that, the Chucks strive to be the most well-conditioned, determined and toughest team around.
As the Chucks are a few days into their first week of 2010-2011 preseason, the words of Dan Gable are often spoken by head coach Eric Eddy and assistant coach Buddy Young, who have been coaching Punxsy wrestling for nine years now.
Gable, known to many as one of the greatest amateur wrestlers ever, is an Olympic champion, two-time NCAA national champion at Iowa State and three-time Iowa high school state champion. Those from his home state often say that Michael Jordan is the Dan Gable of basketball.
Gable coined the phrase, "Once you've wrestled, everything else in life is easy," and that's how the Chucks approach their persistence toward working on conditioning.
"This sport will make you physically tough because it's physically demanding, but it will make you mentally tough because it's mentally demanding. When you combine those two things, you have a tough person — not just a tough athlete," Eddy said. "There are a lot of ways to beat guys. You can beat guys with athletic ability, technique or brutality and desire. These practices are designed to improve all of those things and concentrate on the last two."
During a practice Monday, Young paraphrased another one of Gable's well-known sayings — "The first period is won by the best technician. The second period is won by the kid in the best shape. The third period is won by the kid with the biggest heart."
The Chucks work on wrestling techniques at the start of practice, but the second half of practice is all about conditioning. Punxsy often does various calisthenics, a fireman's carry and wheelbarrows, among others, for a number of six-minute periods to mimic the maximum length of a high school match. During those six-minute periods, the wrestlers are in constant movement.
"We do all kinds of calisthenics and body-weight exercises geared toward muscular strength and endurance. The endurance part is the key," Eddy said. "If you wrestle a strong guy, during the first period, you just don't know how you're going to beat him. He has that grip like King Kong and those big arms you can't get ahold of, but if you take him into the deep water in the third period, a lot of that strength goes away."
Even at 38 years old, Eddy takes part in the team's rigorous training. When Punxsy wrestlers reach the final period of their matches and really need to dig deep in order to win the final two minutes, Eddy will know exactly what they went through in previous practices, since he experienced it himself.
"Every person in the world has the ability to reach their maximum potential in the way of fitness and conditioning. That's what we key on," Eddy said. "We teach the guys technique, and when that technique fails them, they have their conditioning to fall back on."