As the winter season hits its signature holiday break, the Morris wrestling team really couldn't ask to be in a better position. Despite a delayed start to the season because the Redskins football team played in the Class 5A State finals, the locals are around .500 as a team in dual action and they've represented well at tournaments.
In addition to that, the team's returning state qualifiers look to be where they need to be in order to be wrestling down at Assembly Hall again in February. One of those three is senior Justin Barkley.
Before heading off on the holiday break and after the last practice, Barkley agreed to engage the Morris Daily Herald as this week's Question & Answer subject. Here what was exchanged.
Q. When did you start up with the sport of wrestling and for whom?
A. I started wrestling when I was seven for the Little Redskins. It was the first year of the club.
Q. What is your earliest memories of competing in the sport and do you remember your first bout?
A. My earliest memories of wrestling are beginning the year at the Seneca Tournament and having round robin brackets. I received second place at my first tournament.
Q. How did you get involved in the sport and who was your early influences?
A. I got involved with the sport by playing for the Chiefs (youth football team) and having some of the players tell me about the club starting up. My early influence in wrestling was my step-dad Dave. He coached me from when I started wrestling at age seven until I finished wrestling at age 13 in grade school. He has always taught me new moves and what to do better in my matches.
Q. I think you are a wrestler only in high school. Is that correct and have you played any other sports growing up?
A. Yes I'm only a wrestler. In high school I played football until senior year when I decided to try to focus on wrestling more. I started playing football at age six for the Chiefs. When I was little, I played baseball for Lisbon and played soccer until I started football.
Q. What do you like the most about the sport of wrestling?
A. The thing I enjoy about wrestling the most is that when you go out onto the mat its one verses one. Its a sport where you can't blame someone else for your loss. You have to work hard and condition. When you take one second to take a break your opponent takes advantage of it. You have to be dominant and not let up for one second. Wrestling also helps you learn how to overcome a loss and gives you a strive to be better every match.
Q. Let's turn to the current season. What is you assessment of the team to this point?
A. I feel the team is in a pretty good spot despite having a couple guys out with injury. Our young guys are going out there and competing and I experienced guys are getting wins.
Q. How about yourself. What is your assessment of your own shape right now?
A. I feel that I'm not quite where i should be right now. I need to work on getting in better shape and fixing the timing of my moves. But i have an alright record and am going to try to keep improving.
Q. Do you think you are at the point this year that you were last year? I mean, you made it to state last year. Do you think you are progressing at the same pace as a year ago?
A. Yes I believe I am at the same spot I was last year, but in order to place at state I'm going to need to keep improving.
Q. What has changed from last year to this year? Are other wrestlers respecting you more since you are a returning state qualifier?
A. The only thing that has changed is that guys know more about what moves I do now. It makes it harder to win matches but by practicing my moves I can improve them so they still work good. Wrestlers know who I am now and know they have to do their best to beat me.
Q. What is it going to take to get back to state this year?
A. In order to get back to state it's going to take hard work and dedication. I'm going to need to get stronger and in better shape. I also need to improve my timing.
Q. Finally, if you had a piece of advice for a youngster in town who was wanting to wrestle on the Morris varsity some day, what kind of advice would you give them?
A. I would tell them to go to the gym and get strong, practice your moves every day until they are engraved into your brain, and then practice them some more. I would also tell them to get in good shape because you need to have plenty of energy to make it through your matches. And the most important thing is to never give up, you may lose a couple matches but you have to learn from your mistakes. If you put it your all you will eventually get rewarded. Also keep your grades up — school comes first.