Hokie wrestlers hit the mats outdoors
BLACKSBURG — Several Virginia Tech students crossing the Drillfield on Wednesday afternoon took a few extra minutes to watch something that hasn’t been seen on the field before — collegiate wrestling.
Maroon and orange wrestling mats lay outstretched in the middle of the Drillfield while the Hokies’ wrestling team held their first-ever outdoor practice for students, faculty and community members.
The team’s head coach, Kevin Dresser, said he thought up the “crazy” idea a little more than a week ago while lying in bed. “I like to think outside the box, and we’re outside the box,” Dresser said.
The event was designed to allow people who otherwise wouldn’t, to see the wrestling team and what they’re all about, Dresser said. The team also wanted to have a little fun and do something different, he added.
“I thought, ‘We have 35,000 people with students, faculty and staff within a one-mile radius of Cassell Coliseum so let’s put it right in the heart of campus,’ ” Dresser said.
Dresser said he and his staff have been working to “grow” crowds at each meet for the past few seasons, and many of the marketing-related events they’ve done in the past have helped.
“We’ve worked really hard in marketing from the top down, and obviously Virginia Tech’s marketing team has been instrumental in that, too,” Dresser said. “We have a really good product that a lot of people don’t get to see, and we have to capture this moment.”
Tech’s “moment” will be tested early as they compete against Ohio State, Wisconsin and UVa in the month of November. “If we stay healthy, this could be one heck of a team,” Dresser said.
The team has set a goal to have a crowd of more than 5,000 show up for their match against UVa, which would be a first for a dual-meet in the southeast, according to Dresser.
Dresser said this team has been about “firsts.”
“We’re continuing to do firsts all the time,” Dresser said. “This event is a first. Last year we got 11th in the nation, and that was a first.”
In order to achieve another first, the team must finish better than 11th, he added.
Fifth-year senior and All-American Peter Yates is hoping for a first in his career — a national title.
“Anything less would be a disappointment,” he said.
Yates said the outdoor practice, although not the ideal wrestling situation, offered the team a chance to not only become better, but a chance to try something new.
“It’s real easy to come in every day and wrestle under the same conditions, but throw a little bit of adversity in there and it helps,” Yates said.
Senior Sarah Curzon stopped and stared during the team’s practice after class.
“I just wanted to see what it’s all about,” Curzon said. “Obviously they’re pretty good, and you can see it by the way they practice. Their coach seems pretty intense, and that’s awesome.”
Christiansburg resident Vince Manaieri brought his 7-year-old son, Jacob, to see the practice.
“My little boy wrestles, so I wanted him to see a real wrestling practice,” Manaieri said. “He wants to wrestle one day at Virginia Tech so now he can see what it’s all about.”
Jacob Manaieri stood alongside the mat imitating the wrestlers’ every move until the final whistle.
Dresser said he believed the event was a success and hoped to have another outdoor practice in the future, possibly on a “football Saturday.”
“I thought our guys really tried hard today, too,” Dresser said. “Having 100-200 people watching you is definitely a good way to make you try harder.”
As for the season, Dresser is optimistic about his team’s abilities and hopes the Tech community is there to watch.
“How often do you get to see a top-10 team at anything?” Dresser said.
“These guys have earned the right for people to sit in the stands.”
The Roanoke Times | 381-8627
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