Wrestlers prepare for home finale
With senior night looming, Lions coach Dean Hall looked calm and confident at the team’s practice on Tuesday.
Home court advantage isn’t something the Lions have gotten to experience much in many of their sports, and wrestling is no exception. That’s why when head coach Dean Hall planned the schedule for this year’s team, he made sure his only two home matches – which are held in the gym of Louisa County Middle School – would count.
“You strategically try to place certain matches in hopes of getting the team’s confidence up,” Hall said.
Though he attributed it to luck, Hall couldn’t have planned it any better. The Lions’ first home match this year was on Wednesday, Dec. 18, and it gave them the momentum they needed for their recent surge to a 16-5 record, one of the best in recent memory.
Now, coming off an impressive first place win at the 20-team Deep Run Duals this past weekend, the Lions are preparing for their final home match of the year versus Fork Union on Wednesday at 5 p.m. The Lions are hoping to gain momentum for the upcoming district tournament on Friday and Saturday.
Though the home match was supposed to be a tri-meet, Fluvanna had to back out due to scheduling conflicts. While Louisa will face a Fork Union team that hasn’t been known for winning in the past few years, Hall said Louisa’s approach won’t change.
“It’s business as usual,” Hall said. “We have a standard, and we’re not going down from it.”
The meet will be especially bittersweet for four members of Louisa’s squad. It’s senior night, and for Gavin Tingen (160 lb), James Cusick (170 lb), Alex Seay (182 lb) and Miguel Staples (220 lb), it’ll be the last time they set foot in the dinky den that has become their home.
Hall heaped praised about their wrestling ability. He practically sang an entire musical about their leadership.
“They’re the leaders of the family,” Hall said. “I know that seniors traditionally are, but these seniors mean a lot more to these underclassmen than just being lead wrestlers. They are big brothers. They are mentors. They are guys loved by their peers.”
To commemorate senior night, parents of the four departing wrestlers will walk them past the applause and high-fives of teammates and onto the wrestling mat before the meet begins. A short biography of each wrestler will be read as well, but Hall said that words don’t do justice to the value of the four seniors to the program.
“These kids have been through an earthquake together,” Hall said. “They’ve had to deal with driving to a place they can’t call their school to practice.”
Hall said he hopes that the four wrestlers can look back at their time at Louisa and remember that they were part of something special. The word “dynasty” isn’t taboo when speaking to Hall about the future, and he said this group may have started the chain reaction it takes to create a powerhouse program.
“The most special part to these guys is that we’ve got a new program,” Hall said, referring to the team’s rejuvenated record compared to previous years. “We’ve got a program that’s doing something we haven’t done in decades. They know they’re the start of that program’s success as they’re finishing. I see a different sense of pride in these seniors.”
And while Louisa had a feisty and upbeat crowd for their first home match of the year, with approximately 75 percent of the stands full, Hall was quick in his answer to how many he is expecting for the season finale.
“I think it will be doubled, I really do,” Hall said. “I think winning is contagious. When you win correctly with class and professionalism and then with your team believing in each other, it’s contagious. The community wants to be a part of it.”
The action is scheduled to kick off Wednesday at 5 p.m. LCMS’ gym may not be the team’s real home, but expect the reverberating roars of the crowd to make it feel quite hospitable from the first match.