Wrestlers say they’re proving their underdog status wrong

Among other things, the coach and captain point to a full line-up, grit and enthusiasm to explain their winning season.


The Washington and Lee wrestling team went from not being able to fill a full lineup for the last several years to posting a winning record this year.

The Generals had not posted a winning record in the regular season since the 2007–2008 season. Now, in their 2016-2017 season, the team has a winning record since it won its last regular season match against Johns Hopkins 27¬–13. The Generals also posted a winning record of 4-3 in the Centennial Conference.

Matt Kaminer, ’18, who wrestles as a heavyweight at 285 and finished the year with an individual record of 14–11, sees a clear reason for the team’s turnaround.

“I think what allowed us to do well this year and break that record was that we had a full lineup this year,” Kaminer said. “We have not had that in the past. Last year we had sometimes four or five guys in the lineup when a lineup is usually 10. We sent four or five guys to the conference tournament so our scoring potential was half out of what it could have been.”

The scoring system for matches that Kaminer is referring to punishes teams that do not have a wrestler for each of the ten weight classes.

For each wrestling match, a team is supposed to have a lineup of 10 wrestlers, each of which wrestle in a weight class between 125 and 285 pounds, and the point system is based on how each person wrestles.

If a team does not send a representative for a weight class, as W&L had to do for almost half of their lineup at times in years past, the team gets no points for that weight class, putting them at a huge disadvantage.

Head Coach Nathan Shearer thinks the added depth has also given the team as a whole a mental edge.

“As a team we know before the match that we have some control of the outcome in how we perform,” Shearer said. “In the past in three, four or five weight classes we had no control. Now there is more passion and purpose behind our training and that increases our confidence.”

Part of the reason that the team has a full lineup this year, along with the addition of 10 freshmen, is that the team had a 100 percent retention rate of wrestlers this year, not counting the senior who graduated last year. Shearer knows as well as anyone that determining which guys are going to stick it out for an entire season is not an absolute science, but he has some indicators that he looks for.

“There are variables and factors you can look into,” Shearer said. “One of those is if they are competing in the offseason. If you are passionate about something then you are going to do it at every chance that you get. Also your body language and your enthusiasm that you put off and that you make contagious with your teammates. The more enthusiastic you are about something the less likely you are to quit.”

Alex Pollera, ’18, who was a Division III Scholar All-American last season but had his season ended this year due to a torn ligament in his thumb, also thinks that the pre-season polls played a role in the team’s success this year.

“We had an attitude that we wanted to prove everybody wrong as sort of an underdog because we were not given much respect in the preseason,” Pollera said. “In our preseason ranking we were ranked eighth of out eight in our conference and we are going to finish well above that. We had a chip on our shoulder and a full lineup and we really wanted to make a mark this year.”

The team hopes to continue with that underdog mentality into the conference tournament and potentially the national tournament.

“Our key to success will be for our whole team to keep a level head,” Kaminer said. “At this point in the year you do not want to change a lot of things. People have a routine of the way they go about things during the week. The big key is just trying not to change much and keep the routine the same.”