By Marion Valanoski
For The Daily Item
COAL TOWNSHIP —
There’s a very simple explanation as to why Wade Alleman and over 50 wrestlers in the Shamokin High School wrestling program chose to venture out into Saturday’s blustery, winter conditions when staying under those warm blankets certainly had to be a better alternative to shorts and smelly shirts and rolling around on a hard mat: Pride.
Alleman and members of the junior high and varsity coaching staff remember all too well the storied history that surrounds Greyhounds and Indians exploits on the mats and would like nothing more than to help revive the spirit and enthusiasm needed to make Shamokin wrestling significant again not just within the school itself but throughout the state.
It starts with the younger athletes who become the building blocks necessary for future success and a top-notch motivator, who has been in their shoes and worked his way up the ladder of success and possesses all the fine tools to pass on to the eager would-be learners.
Enter Jeff Prescott, a former two-time NCAA Wrestling Champion at Penn State University and the Outstanding Wrestler in the 1991 tournament, as well as earning All-American honors for three consecutive years in addition to being a four-time U.S. National place winner.
In other words, a champion both on and off the mat who has used his sport to not only earn an education, but has also taken the skills from his sport and transformed that knowledge into a wrestling school, which he has developed to help other potential would-be grapplers to learn what it takes not only to be a good wrestler but what wrestling can do for the individual off the mat.
“I was happy to come here to Shamokin after hearing from Coach Alleman and what they were hoping to accomplish with this one-day camp,” Prescott said. “These guys are not in it for themselves but want to bring back success to the school and they are aware that it starts with the younger athletes and that means working from the ground up and showing them in simple but easy steps what it takes to be a good wrestler, but at the same time, knowing it also has to be fun for the wrestlers, especially at this level.”
Prescott was a three-time state champion in New York and used the motivation of wanting to do better than the people who wrestled before him as a means to reaching his goals.
“The younger athletes need someone to look up to and respect; in a sense a mentor,” Prescott said. “Their mentors here can be the coaches or perhaps knowing anyone of the wrestlers from the school who earned state championship honors and sometimes are here at practice.
“My system is very simple because I break down the sport to the smallest detail and then teach technique in sequence making it easier to pick up and remember and it all starts with the basics. You can’t execute the big moves without knowing the fundamentals of what you are trying to do. This way you get better faster and quicker.”
Prescott came back to the East Coast after spending 10 years at Jupiter Catholic in Florida where he coached approximately 30 individual state champions.
“’I’ve been at my present location for three years now and it’s great to see first- and second-year wrestlers closing the gap against their opponents,” Prescott said. “Even at this age level you can present a picture as to what’s available to them in their sport, and even if they don’t fully grasp the concept of earning a scholarship, you can be sure mom and dad pick up that fact quickly knowing the cost of a college education today.
“Yes it’s wrestling, but also make them aware of the opportunities they can attain through the sport in terms of education and future job opportunities. The toughness and work ethic you learn in the mat room will and carry over into whatever endeavors you chose in the future.”
Prescott also let the young campers, who were also joined by several varsity performers, he was in the very shoes they are in now, but used goal-setting and motivation to earn his way to the top podium in New York and then NCAA honors at Penn State, and they can set the very same goals right now.
“I’ll tell you just how special I feel about wrestling,” Presoctt said. “If I had to pick anyone to go to war with it would be wrestlers. Why? Because they are physically and mentally tougher than any other athletes that I know.
“Mental is what sets apart the average wrestler from the great ones. Coach Joe Paterno used to send football players over from his practices to work out with the wrestlers because he knew the value of what one of our workouts was like and the benefits they would pick up.”
Prescott concluded that there needs to be a balance between work and fun at practice in order to keep the athletes fresh and interested.
“You need that balance.” Prescott said. “Make them work, but inject in some fun or they won’t come back.
Saturday’s interest can only help the future of the Indians’ wrestling program and perhaps what was learned at this camp might be the deciding factor that allows one or more of them to join the banner on the wall that includes former state champions such as Joe Bordell (1968), Bob Nye (1991) and two-time titlist Scott Kurtz (1993-94) and help that number increase from 18 to who knows what.