A few times each week after practice and before the warm-up session for every match, Osbourn Park wrestling Coach Mike Spudic takes his wrestlers to a quiet place and has them lie down, close their eyes and visualize their upcoming bouts.
“We go through what moves we have to hit and how we have to feel about them so we’re not thinking about it on the mat because we already know what we have to do,” 106-pound junior Sean Badua said. “When I came in my freshman year it was a little weird, but after you get used to it you notice that it really works.”
The motivational imagery technique plus more traditional work in the wrestling room has led to sustained improvement for the Yellow Jackets, who have suddenly become one of the Virginia AAA Northwest Region’s stronger programs.
(Individual and team rankings can be found here.)
Osbourn Park qualified a team-record five wrestlers to last year’s Virginia AAA tournament, and Badua became the first wrestler in school history to advance to a state championship match when he made it to the final bout in the 103-pound weight division.
The team’s most recent milestone came at the Cardinal District meet this past weekend, when seven wrestlers won individual championships to lead the Yellow Jackets past traditional power Forest Park for the school’s first district championship since 1994.
“I hope the success is breeding more success,” said Spudic, who let his team shave his head after it clinched the district title. “For Sean to be in the state final last year, kids see that and say ‘that’s something I can do if I work hard too.’”
Badua, Luis Aceves (113 pounds), Matt Dromazos (126), Josh Johnson (145), Steven Wittenberg (170), Otari Somkhishvili (195) and Andrew Babeu (220) won individual district titles this year, but Badua – The Post’s top-ranked area wrestler at 106 – remains the Yellow Jackets’ top contender on a state level.
Badua takes a 39-3 record into the Northwest Region championships this weekend at Battlefield, but he has not lost a match since the prestigious Beast of the East tournament in mid-December.
The 106-pound weight class is perhaps the Northwest region’s most competitive division – with Mountain View’s Jonny Lopez, Forest Park’s Tommy Aloi and Colonial Forge’s Bryce Gentry also in the mix – but Badua hopes to set the tone for his teammates who will wrestle after him in the higher weight classes so they can see success other than what they imagine before they warm up.
“I hope we can beat whatever we’ve done in the past,” Badua said. “I need to go out there and wrestle like I normally do. There’s a ton of tough wrestlers, but I just can’t let anything negative get in my head.”
Second-ranked Georgetown Prep entered this past Saturday’s Interstate Athletic Conference tournament believing it had a realistic chance to win all 14 weight classes. The Little Hoyas came up short of that goal but still produced a record 10 individual titles en route to their eighth straight tournament title. All 14 Georgetown Prep wrestlers finished in the top three of the six-team event at St. Albans.
“I think it kind of gives the kids a nice bounce going into the next three weeks,” said Coach Mike Kubik, whose team finished the dual season 31-0. “It’s such a tough sport with such a long season it’s hard to keep them motivated and interested the whole way. It was a nice start to our postseason.”
Georgetown Prep (254 points) more than doubled the team score of second-place St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes (123.5). Freshman Colin Kowalski (103), junior Daniel Sanchez (132) and junior James McCord (138) won both of their matches by pin.
The Little Hoyas’ unmatched depth was most evident at 170. While junior Troy Murtha — the Post’s top-ranked 170-pounder — missed the tournament due to illness, junior Anthony McHale stepped in and won the title.
St. Albans senior Charles Cato took the 160-pound title and outstanding wrestler honors.
This weekend all six IAC teams will join many other local private squads at the St. Albans Invitational. Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) — ranked No. 9 nationally by www.intermatwrestle.com — headlines the 30-team field. For the Little Hoyas, the Maryland Independent Schools (Feb. 17-18 at McDonogh) and National Prep (Feb. 23-25 at Lehigh University) tournaments follow.