The quote “Your habits in here determine your performance out there” is written on a wall inside the Midlakes wrestling room. The Screaming Eagles finished the 2011-12 season as the New York State Division II dual meet champion, so the wrestlers obviously put in a lot of hard work in that room.
One of the keys to Midlakes’ success is the team’s internal competition between wrestling partners.
Screaming Eagles coach Steve Howcroft mixes the inexperienced wrestlers with the experienced ones in the first two weeks of practice.
“As your practices go on you start to form groups and partners within the room,” Howcroft said. “There’s the saying ‘steel sharpens steel.’ You take the guys who are good and at times make them compete against each other. You can put them in your groups and you use them as teachers and then turn around and use them to help each other.”
The Screaming Eagles dominated the lower weight classes in Section 5 last year. Sean Peacock won sectionals, finished second at supersectionals and won a state title at 113 pounds, Ralph Mateo III won sectionals at 120, Collin Fox won sectionals at 138, Jason Charlette finished second at sectionals at 99, Derian Woodard finished second at 120 and Hammond Raes finished third at 99.
“Our whole light side of our lineup, those guys blossom from working with each other,” Howcroft said.
Peacock, a junior, has gone against Mateo and Woodard in practice the last two years. Peacock said going up against them helped him reach the level he did last season.
“They’re both different styles of wrestlers,” Peacock said. “Derian being tall helps me wrestle taller guys and Ralph being funky and short helps me wrestler the funkier guys.”
Midlakes wrestlers in heavier weight classes also performed well last year. Tyler Smith won sectionals at 195 pounds, finished second at supersectionals and fourth at states, Jeryd Graham finished fourth at sectionals at 170 and Cody Maher finished fifth at 160. Conner Fox, who graduated last June, won the 152-pound sectional title. Fox was named Alfred State’s athlete of the week after going 5-2 in a competition at Niagara County Community College.
Smith, a senior this year, worked with Fox and Graham last year and is working with Graham again this year.
He feels his practice matches against Graham are more intense because of how well they know each other. Most of the team has been wrestling together since joining the Midlakes youth program at age five or six.
“He knows me a lot better and knows what I do more, so I have to work on other things to improve on,” Smith said. “My best moves he already knows, so I work on other things which helps me in the matches.”
Page 2 of 2 - The wrestlers won’t face anyone in Section 5 as often as they do their teammates. Mateo said it’s great experience to go up against the state champion every day.
“I appreciate it,” Mateo said. “He’s got some things a lot of people don’t know how to do and he works with me on that stuff.”
When it comes to matches against other schools, the Midlakes boys said when their partners are in the ring they know them well enough to help them. They can shout out advice along with their coach, but the work the Screaming Eagles put in with each other in the wrestling room is the key to winning matches and titles.