• Bill Caine, Woodford Sun Staff

Mat Jackets prepare for Duals

The Woodford County High School wrestling team is preparing for battle this winter. The Woodford Duals are scheduled for Wednesday, November 29th in the high school gym and will be the opener to the season.

The wrestling room is an intense place to visit. The heat is turned up full blast so it feels like mid August in the room. A motivational speech is happening by coach Rusty Parks Jr. and he is animated telling the team, “Every time you take time off from training, someone is working harder than you.” That kind of intensity is what has made Woodford County wrestling a perennial powerhouse in the state. Parks has been part of the wrestling program since he was 5 years old. That's nearly 25 years.

“It's all I have ever known,” said Parks. It's all I have ever known was the grind of being a wrestler and it's a big part of me and the person I have become. Training is what makes a champion and that is what is happening every day at practice. You can see it on their faces. These guys know what they want and have bought into our way of training to win.”

Many wrestlers on the team start their day at 4:30 am and begin their running training for the day. After four or five miles, they return home to shower and have some breakfast before riding the bus to school. The kids receive quality education for six and a half hours and then are back in the wrestling room until six thirty every night. That level of commitment is what separates Yellow Jacket wrestling from the rest of the programs around the state.

“The grind is hard,” said sophomore Triston Brooks. “It takes a lot to get used to at first but you get that fever to win and you know winning is not possible without the pain of training.”

The team trains together, they run together as a team after school and they are on the mat battling together. It's a family atmosphere in the wrestling room. The older experienced wrestlers look out for the young guys and try to bring them along. Everyone in the room understands that in order to win a team state championship, all cylinders have to firing.

“I've been wrestling for twelve years,” said senior Adam Bender. “I've been a three time state placer and I am highly motivated to get that state championship this year. I come in here everyday with that in mind. I am chasing the title individually but I know that we can accomplish a team championship as well.”

Parks understands what it takes to be a champion at Woodford County as he has been one himself.

“Hard work and discipline is what it takes,” said Parks. “It's something that was preached to me over and over and installed in my brain. It's something that is a part of me every day. I still train with these guys because I love it. We have a great group of kids and we also have dedicated coaching from youth all the way up to high school wrestling. The coaches care and want the kids to be the best they can be.”

“Coach knows what to tell us to get us fired up the moments before we hit the mat,” said CJ Cardwell. “He's an intense guy and he's passionate. He's been there and knows what it takes to get your mind ready to wrestle.”

The sweat and the aches are a small price to pay to win it all is what most kids on the team will tell you. Wrestlers come into the wrestling room wanting their name on the wall for winning a state championship. The history of the program shows that every year the black and gold will have a quality team.

“I want to be a state champ but would also love to be a national champion,” said sophomore Chase Yost. “I was able to win state as an eighth grader and I am hungry to fight for it again.”

Last season the Jackets had a pair of state champions. Joey Roberts and Max Andreoni both won individual championships and have become the latest legends in the Woodford County wrestling room. Wyatt Andreoni is currently on the Jacket roster and he embraces the family name for wrestling.

“It means a lot to me to see what Max did,” said Andreoni. “I come in here every day trying to be the best wrestler I can be but I also want to be a good teammate and help the younger guys any way I can. I know how talented this team is and we expect big things.”

While wrestling is a team sport where you accumulate points throughout a meet, it's also the ultimate individual sport that tests the human body and pushes it its limits.

“I like the idea of knowing that it's all on me when I am on the mat,” said Ronan Wyatt. “My teammates will be there cheering me on but it's me that has to be beat that guy on the mat. I thrive off of that feeling. There really is nothing else like it. This team is definitely capable of a team title and if we all can execute when the time comes, we will bring another title home.”

The Jackets came up short of their goal of being state champions last season and that is fuel for the fire of many including Tylan Tucker who comes in senior locked in with big goals for this year.

“I've been to state before with dreams of a state title but I will not be outworked this season,” said Tucker. “Coach has us believing in ourselves and we know we can get better each day. In order to win the state championship, you have to have you best day of wrestling. Everyone comes with their “A” game and you have to be willing to sacrifice pain for success.”

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