Bermudian Springs sophomore Colton Dull was missing when the District 3 Class AA district tournament ended last Saturday. Eagles wrestling coach Dave McCollum looked for a few moments around where his team sat before someone told him Dull was still showering.
Dull used the long shower to wash away his 4-2 loss in the 160-pound championship. That's just one way wrestlers reset their minds to cope with the rigors of postseason tournament wrestling, which continues with the PIAA Class AA Southeast Regional tournament on Friday and Saturday at Wilson High School in West Lawn.
This weekend will be the third consecutive week wrestlers have competed in a tournament format after doing just one match per day in regular-season dual meets with the exception of an occasional tournament.
Mentally, the challenge is enormous.
"It's a lot harder than the normal one match a day," Dull said. "If you lose, you got to bounce right back. Shake off the first match and get right back to it. I just try to block out my match, all the other things around me, and focus on my one match."
Added McCollum: "It's definitely a different mindset. In tournaments, you really have to bounce back. You got to learn how to wrestle through wrestlebacks and be ready to move on to the next match and not dwell on your losses. That's really big. It's really a mental challenge."
Tournament wrestling also produces a physical toll. Wrestlers must cope with the stress of competing in as many as five matches over a two-day span against quality competition.
Some wrestlers quit because training for a six-minute regular season match is too challenging.
"It's definitely tough," McCollum said. "You got to get up in the seats, get some Gatorade in you, get regenerated and get the rest you need. When you leave the arena, you go to the hotel. It's really important you get your rest. That's the biggest thing, so that you're more prepared for that next match."
Wrestlers cope by using the same routines that made them successful during the regular season.
Hanover junior Tyler Shafer, who won the District 3 Class AA 138-pound championship last Saturday, emphasizes making weight. If wrestlers are far away from their qualifying weights, they'll have to drop a lot at the last moment.
"You don't want to suck yourself out because that will (make doing well more challenging)," Shafer said. "It's a lot of liquids."
Shafer also listens to music before going onto the mat -- but to calm down, not to get excited.
Dull does the opposite, trying to get psyched up while pacing alongside the mat in an effort to build a sweat. It's something he'll do time and time again this weekend and, he hopes, a few more times next weekend in the PIAA Class AA Championships.
"You got to be in shape and healthy," Dull said. "But mentally you got to know what you're doing. It's a lot more pressure. Everyone is watching."
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