LEXINGTON, Va. - VMI Athletic Communications sat down with interim head wrestling coach Richard Lavorato recently to discuss his outlook on the team and the 2017-18 wrestling season. The Keydets begin the new campaign this Saturday with a home dual against perennial SoCon power Chattanooga.
Here are Coach Lavorato's thoughts:
Who are this year’s team captains and leaders? What are your expectations of them both on and off the mat?
This year’s captains will be Hunter Starner and Taylor Thomas. As for leaders, that is not limited to anyone. Anyone can lead at any time, but all the upperclassmen will help play a role in developing our freshmen and underclassmen. Setting a precedent for the young guys by holding them accountable to be part of a Division 1 program is the expectation in the classroom, in their personal lives and on the mat.
How have practices been the past few weeks? What is the team working on to prepare for the season?
Practices have been solid the past few weeks. We have been doing a lot of live wrestling. A big philosophy of mine is the best way to get in shape for wrestling is to wrestle. The team is working on being able to compete for the entirety of the seven minutes and being able to continue to push forward, score points and win all positions. Also, the mentality of the team has changed a little bit. I think they all have a chip on their shoulder this year for a number of different reasons and they will be surprising a lot of people throughout the season.
What did the team learn from last season?
I think the team learned that last year anything can happen. Whether it is injuries, skin issues, disciplinary things, grades, illness or whatever it may be, the next man up has to be ready to wrestle at any time. I think the young lineup we put out last year for the majority of the season because of those things will benefit those guys moving into this season.
How is the health of the team going into the season?
This year the health seems to be okay. No major issues, so the hope is that it continues that way. For the past few years the injury bug has gone through the team but so far so good. No wrestler is ever 100 percent healthy going into the season. There is always something going on in the body when you train as hard as wrestlers do. It just has to be a mindset to try and recover after each practice and match to get as close to 100 percent as you can for the next competition.
How are the freshmen coming along?
The freshmen are coming along just fine. Some guys are struggling a little bit and frustrated with their technique. That is only because it isn’t as effective in college as it is in high school. As long as they continue to come into the room with an open mind, are willing to learn and enjoy that struggle of growing from a high school wrestler to a Division 1 wrestler, they will continue to improve.