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Wrestling: Rockets have bigger fish to fry

There were some very entertaining and enlightening moments at Tabor Gym in Rock Falls on Wednesday night, and not necessarily from the action on the wrestling mat.

While a JV bout was being contested, a wrestler watching the action pulled the hoodie he was wearing over head and said, “I think I’m going to fall asleep.”

That got his teammates chuckling.

That same wrestler soon uttered, “I feel bad for the wrestling fans that came here to watch this.”

That got me chuckling.

On the informative side, I learned that Rock Falls assistant football coach Scott Berge will soon be interviewing for the school’s head football coaching position. I also learned that athletic trainer Shane Brown, staffing the meet this particular night, had thankfully yet to diagnose a wrestling-related concussion when I brought up this newspaper’s summer-long series on concussions.

Then there was the man who asked me if Sterling was wrestling Wednesday night. I replied I wasn’t sure.

“I was just wondering why you were here,” he said, bringing up the tiresome anthem of the newspaper favoring one school over another.

He later informed me, “We are 13-0, you know.”
Well, OK, since you brought it up, let’s take another look at that record. The Rockets are indeed now 15-0, after taking care of North Boone 60-10 and Dixon 53-15. A pre-match inspection of the Rock Falls scorebook, however, showed me a lot of the matches are similar to the ones Wednesday night – full of forfeits and JV bouts.

Head coach Derrick Cox told me before the night he thought his team could beat any team on its schedule, and I believe him. The Rockets are at least two deep at virtually every position, and that competitive situation in practice is sure to pay dividends when it comes to matches.

He’s only had to trot out a full varsity lineup for a handful of matches to stay undefeated, however, and that says something about the state of wrestling in northern Illinois as it does about the Rockets’ prowess.

Cox, who actually noted he preferred to not be covered by the media, the better to come in under the radar against future opponents, rightfully pointed out in even forfeit-filled matches, it gives his non-star athletes the chance to improve in game action.

“Our goal is to face Lena-Winslow or Harvard or whoever in a team regional,” he said, “and we’re going to need every point. This is very important – learning how to wrestle as a team. They may forfeit to your studs, but your guys who maybe have a little less experience are going to need to step up.”

Sophomore Matt Mammosser had the right attitude when I asked him if the Rockets had bigger fish to fry that having a gaudy win-loss record.

“It’s like we’re going up the mountain, and at the peak are regional, sectional and state,” he said. “All this is just building up toward that.

The Rockets will have a better gauge of where they stand in coming Saturday invites. They go to Riverdale this week, Erie-Prophetstown the next, and in early January head to always-loaded Princeton and Quincy tourneys.

“Ultimately, it’s how you wrestle in February that’s going to make a difference,” Cox said.

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