By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
“I won’t be as intimidated by the better wrestlers (in the state) because I’ve wrestled guys who are better than I am.’’
Billy Grothe’s words this summer after wrestling for Oklahoma in the National Junior Olympic freestyle and Greco-Roman duals are ringing true.
The junior 126-pounder will take an eight-match winning streak into the prestigous Geary Tournament Friday, including a 7-2 win over Ponca City’s Caleb Burns, who was ranked No. 7 by the Oklahoma Wrestling website.
“I have a little swagger to me,’’ Grothe said. “I used to be worried about losing, but I have put that behind me. I just go out to win. I always look for the opportunity to score. I’m a lot more aggressive. If you’re scared, you’re not going to take the opportunities.’’
He now talks of winning a state championship, or at least placing.
“I think I’m better than everyone else,’’ Grothe said. “The way I’m wrestling, I think there’s no one that can beat me now. There’s nothing to lose by going for it. You want to set your goals high.’’
Grothe wrestled year-round in 2012. EHS coach Jory Dick said there wasn’t a month he wasn’t competing somewhere. The Oklahoma team traveled to championships in both Florida and North Dakota.
“That was huge,’’ Dick said. “He got to train with the best in the state and got to wrestle some of the best guys in the country.
“When he’s hanging around guys like Joe Smith (son of Oklahoma State coach and two-time Olympic gold medalist John Smith), he realizes he’s not that far off from them. It’s a confidence builder. He feels he can throw anybody in the state when it comes down to it.’’
Grothe said training with the elite raised his level of intensity.
“When you’re working to beat the best in the state, all of the other people come easier,’’ Grothe said, “You learn from your mistakes that you made against those guys. You learn their ins-and-outs and what their weaknesses are.’’
Grothe said last summer he “didn’t do as well as he wanted to’’ in the national competition, but it was a “great experience.’’
What he learned from losses in June and July can become wins in December, January and February.
“To be the best,’’ he said, “you have to train like the best. Wrestling guys like Joe Smith just helps you reach their level.’’
Grothe was penalized against Burns when he picked him up and “used a freestyle move on him.’’
“Anybody that saw Billy lift that kid could see how strong he is,’’ Dick said. “He didn’t return him right. He had him six feet off the mat.’’
The streak is motivation for Grothe, who is beginning to use higher-risk moves.
“It’s more of a confidence builder,’’ Grothe said. “I’m putting pressure on myself. I got to keep the streak up.’’
Grothe is more critical of himself when watching films of his matches.
“Sometimes I see opportunities that I had and didn’t take,’’ he said. “I take that into practice with me and try to capitalize on it. I’m just working hard in practice every day to get the most out of it, A lot of it is just keeping in shape and wrestling smart.’’
Grothe will be tested at Geary, which is considered to be a higher-caliber tournament than the 6A state championships as it attracts top wrestlers from all classes.
“This will be a big test for him,’’ Dick said, “This is the best of the best of all classes. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens.’’
“It will allow me to size up to see how I’m doing so far,’’ Grothe said. “A lot of state champions at my weight graduated last year. I think I have a good shot at it.’’
Grothe, being a big 126-pounder, is constantly having to cut weight. He often has to cut as much as eight to nine pounds a week.
“Cutting weight is tough, especially during the holidays,’’ Grothe said. “You just have to do a lot of dieting.’’
He does that by avoiding junk food and eating “healthy stuff.’’
“If I cut weight right and eat the right foods, I’ll have a good outcome at Geary,’’ Grothe said. “You can take a lo of weight off during practice. I get my water weight out easily.’’
Grothe has been wrestling for seven years. His older brother, Chuck and his father, Henry, both wrestled for EHS.
“That had a lot to do with wrestling,’’ he said. “They pushed me when I was choosing a sport as a little kid.’’
He has wrestled for Dick all that time. Dick started out as a grade school coach and has gone up the coaching ladder with Grothe.
“That really helps me,’’ Grothe said. “You don’t have to get used to a new coach. We’re pretty close.’’
Grothe’s strength is on his feet. Dick said he’s been looking good in holiday practices.
Heavyweight Jake Scott and sophomore 195-pounder Zach Overbeck should be contenders at Geary for EHS as well, Dick said.