Captains’ corner

Each week, the Phi will high- light two captains and learn a little about what drives them to be leaders, both in the game and in the locker room.

Caroline Blackmon

Matt Kaminer, wrestling

When Matt Kaminer, ’18, started wrestling in seventh grade, he thought it would be like the fake wrestling he watched on television.

“I got hooked on it when I was very young,” Kaminer said. “I had never done an individual sport before and there’s an interesting dynamic.”

Kaminer’s favorite part of wrestling is how it’s a sport that is constantly changing and evolving.

“Wrestling is a very unique sport,” he said. “Every move and entry in the sport can be done a different way and so you learn something new everyday.”

He also likes the fact that if he puts in work to learn new moves, he sees the results directly on the mat and feels like he’s accomplished a lot. One of Kaminer’s favorite memories from wrestling that exemplifies this was when Ron Tessoni, ’16, qualified to go to the National Tournament last year.

“Ron was a huge motivating factor for me as a lead-by- example kind of guy. He didn’t let the outside factors get into his life,” Kaminer said. “It was an awesome experience to watch him accomplish that goal that he had been going for all season.”

Though the team has not officially declared captains, Kaminer was a captain for two years at his high school, so he brings that experience every day.

“I learned a lot about how to educate the younger guys,” he said. “I’ve also learned how to push guys in practice. Being a captain in high school made me learn that everyone is motivated differently.”

He said he thinks this experience has led him to develop his strengths in a leadership role.

“You want to see the younger guys continue the success of the current classes. My biggest strength is investing myself in their success,” he said. “Being well-spoken and matching my effort and motivation to my effort in practice is also a really important strength.”

Kaminer said that he, and the rest of the team, take a hands-off approach during practice and matches.

“To be a college wrestler, you have to be very autonomous and work on and develop work ethic and skills on your own,” he said. “You can’t go out and wrestle the match for them.”

Off the mat, Kaminer said that he tries to focus on keeping a well-rounded lifestyle.

“This can be hard especially for the freshmen,” he said. Making sure the team is focused in school and their mindset, when it comes to wrestling, is focused on the team.

The Washington and Lee wrestling team has their next match on Dec. 19.

Rachel Steffen, cross country

A rule in the Steffen household was that everyone at least had to try to play a sport. Unfortunately for Rachel Steffen, ’18, she said she has no hand-eye coordination, so cross country was her only option.

“I kind of hated it at first, but I kept going to practice and then it stopped being painful,” she said. “Eventually

I realized that if I started trying it would get easier and become fun.”

Steffen’s favorite part of running in college is her team.

“Getting to spend time with them is my favorite part of every day,” she said. “It’s definitely a stress relief too. We have a little cross country family and it’s awesome to be a part of.”

Steffen was the captain of her cross country and track teams in high school, and her biggest challenge in high school was that her coach was not willing to put in the work to make the team improve.

“I kind of saw the potential my team had in high school to achieve great things and go on to all of these great meets,” she said, “but I didn’t have any help.”

When she came to Washington and Lee, though, she realized that everyone on this team was on the same page and that everyone knows what to do to achieve their goals.

As a captain, Steffen says that she works most on being a more vocal leader than in previous years. But, Steffen plans on that becoming one of her biggest strengths as a captain, along with her ability to lead by example.

“I’m good at stepping back from a situation and looking at everyone’s point-of-view and figuring out what needs to be done,” she said. “I’m also good at being rational and not letting my emotions get the better of me.”

During practice and meets, Steffen tries to keep the mood light but focused. Off the track, the whole team tries to focus on the little things.

“We focus on encouraging people to eat enough, get enough sleep and make healthy life decisions in general,” he said. “The whole team is good about holding each other accountable.”

Steffen also makes sure that the team knows that she has her teammates’ backs, no matter what the conversation.

“I don’t think I could imagine my experience at W&L without the cross country and track teams,” she said.