NEW ULM - When you're faced with win-or-go-home matches at the end of the wrestling season, the only thing you can do is trust that you've done as much as possible to prepare yourself for that moment.
In order to get ready for that scenario, the New Ulm wrestling team has added to its schedule this season so that its wrestlers can participate in the maximum number of matches allowed.
"We do have a full schedule - 18 team competitions is the max for wrestling, so we have 18 dates we'll be competing," New Ulm head coach John Rieser said. "That's up from last year, we only had 15 last year. We have a pretty full schedule this year, it will be kind of non-stop going."
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Seniors Luke Cihak (left) and Andrew Bregel (right) will be the captains for the New Ulm wrestling team this season.
The Eagles will hit the ground running tonight when they travel to Mankato for a 6:30 p.m. triangular against Mankato West and Marshall. The team will then attend the highly competitive Monticello Invitational on Saturday.
New Ulm co-captains Luke Cihak and Andrew Bregel realize that the extra time spent in competition will help them make the most out of their senior campaigns.
"I know we picked up a couple tournaments, and that gives us an opportunity to face kids we haven't wrestled before," Cihak said. "Those kids may be better than you, which is good, because it gets you prepared."
"It gives us a good opportunity to get the matches in, to wrestle bigger schools, good schools," Bregel added. "It gives us a chance to get conditioned and in shape and all that good stuff."
The current New Ulm lineup doesn't include anyone with experience competing at the state tournament. The team is hoping to change that by the end of the season.
"Individually I think we would all like to make it to state - that's one of my goals, " Cihak said. "[For the seniors] it's your last year to do something good in wrestling, whether it's make it to state or just have a good record."
Both Cihak and Bregel have experienced the state tournament as a spectator, but they would like to view the action at the Xcel Center from a different perspective this season.
"It would be pretty amazing to be out there on the floor and get a chance to wrestle against all that good competition, and get to prove yourself one last time as a senior," Bregel said.
Instead of spending the season romanticizing about the possibilities that await at the end, however, Rieser is making sure his wrestlers focus on just one word in every practice and every competition - improvement.
"We're just looking to improve every meet and every match, improve from last year," Rieser said. "That's kind of what I'm looking for, is just improvement from Day 1."
Wrestlers that were on the team last year know that they want to do everything they can to help the team improve on last year's overall record.
"As a team I'd like to see us improve from our record last year, winning just one match-up," Bregel said. "I'd like to see us win some more and do better as a team and improve every single match we wrestle."
As co-captains, Cihak and Bregel are hoping to help the younger wrestlers understand exactly what it will take to be successful this season.
"Work hard is the biggest thing," Cihak said. "Work hard and listen to your coaches."
"If you give everything you've got, then you shouldn't have any problems, as long as you just keep it going and work hard," Bregel added.
Now in his second year at the helm of the program, Rieser is confident that this year's team possesses the necessary attitude to set the program on the right course for the future.
"Coming back, most of the kids' attitudes have been real good," Rieser said. "We talked about goals, we want the kids to set goals for practice, set goals for matches, set goals for the year. I think we'll be fine. Competition is what you practice for, and it should be a fun year."