Right as the clock hits 3, every boy on the wrestling team is standing and getting loose, jumping up and down on their toes, swinging their arms back and forth. Then, East’s new wrestling coach, Ben Sutherlin, strides into the wrestling room.
“Start warming up!”
The 40 boys form a circle. Senior Marshall Green leads the team as they jog, sprint, leap and roll around the wrestling mats.
The boys get into pairs and start wrestling. Matches go for 30 seconds and the opponents focus on a specific move such as hand fighting. They crouch low to the ground and use their hands to gain a position to win the point and put the opponent on the mat.
Sutherlin has seen this warm up many times as a former wrestler himself and as a coach. He wrestled in high school and played football in college. He knows what it takes to win as an athlete at the high school and collegiate level and is willing to offer advice and share his experiences.
“He is a lot more willing to get out there on the mat with them and show them what to do and wrestle with them,” said sophomore wrestling manager, Katie Aldrich, said. “He interacts with them and is really excited for them.”
The managers are controlling the clock and the music while the boys are wrestling.
“Turn up the music,” Green yells.
Right away, the managers are on it and the workout Pandora music station is now blasting. The music riles up the boys and keeps them focused.
At first, Green was upset about getting a new coach because he felt like Coach Ufford was a great coach and he liked the way he ran the team. But Green has been impressed with Sutherlin’s coaching style, which is an aggressive and he likes his willingness to get involved in the team.
“He brings a lot of good energy,” Green said.
Sutherlin’s eagerness to be hands-on and help out the wrestlers comes from his past wrestling experiences.
“We have 25 kids [almost half the team] this year that have never wrestled before, so we break it down for them and try and simplify it so they can become Varsity wrestlers whenever they are ready,” Sutherlin said.
Sutherlin is relatable to the other wrestlers because of his experience. He knows how to win at the highest level and he wrestled at Shawnee Mission West during his high school days.
Sutherlin also has experience coaching in the Shawnee Mission District, having coached at South and West prior to East. Sutherlin says there are no major differences between the two other Shawnee Mission Schools.
Sutherlin came into a successful program at East with some established veteran wrestlers like Marshall Green a senior, and Drake Yost, Michael Aldrich and Mike Bamford, both juniors. These four experienced wrestlers will need to help guide the young freshmen who have never wrestled before.
Sutherlin has had to teach some kids from scratch. They needed to learn all the basics before they could really start practicing.
Even with a young team, Sutherlin and Green expect ten wrestlers to go to State.
If the players work hard at every practice and compete at the level they are capable of, they will reach their goal of winning state and Sutherlin’s first year coaching will be a success.
“I know what it takes to work hard and to be a state placer. All the extra effort it takes,” Sutherlin said.