'Life on the Mat' with PW's John Michael Staudenmayer

John Michael Staudenmayer entered his final high school season as one of the state’s premiere wrestlers. The Plymouth Whitemarsh senior has the singular goal of closing out the year with a state championship. Last year, Staudenmayer saw his dream of winning gold go up in smoke when he lost his first match at the PIAA Tournament. In a remarkable display of guts and determination, Staudenmayer battled all the way back through the consolation bracket to finish third and capture the bronze medal.

The gifted senior recently signed a letter of intent to accept a wrestling scholarship to the University of North Carolina. He will share his thoughts about both his team and his own personal journey through journal entries that will periodically be posted on the site. It promises to be an interesting season, and we are grateful that John Michael was willing to share a piece of his journey with all of us.
Journal Entry #3
 
Sunday, January 23, 2011
 
What comes to mind when I think of how this season is going for our team - I think of the word inexperienced. Not inexperienced as a bad thing, but there are many kids in our lineup that have not seen a varsity match before this year and have been getting exposure to what varsity wrestling is about. 
 
Through the past couple of weeks, we have without question seen some great competition starting at the Blue Mountain Gauntlet. Going into that tournament, I wanted our team to just improve. Seeing the teams there, I think our biggest thing to focus on was getting better as the matches were wrestled. For myself, my goal was to get the best matches possible and, if necessary, bump to 189 in order to wrestle their best kids. 
 
We hit Norristown the first match, and I think we got a taste of what one of the best teams in the area is like. As the matches keep rolling by, many of our guys got pinned, so it was important to pick them up because we still had four more matches to wrestle the rest of the day. Unfortunately, only three of us had won, but we were able to get the best team out of the way early. The rest of the day rolled by fairly quickly, and unfortunately, we did not win a match against any of the teams there. 
 
I had to figure out a way to keep our guys going somehow. These kids needed to buy into this sport and really want to get better. Two league matches were coming up in Upper Dublin and Cheltenham to start our league schedule. Home against Upper Dublin we did not get the win, but we were quite happy with the way our team wrestled. I could see improvement from match to match, and the hard work we were putting in the room was showing. 
 
When it comes to the league matches, I like to go into the match with the mindset that I am going to work things that I normally don’t work so that I can get a feel for them in a match. I know our team needs the six points from me many times, but these are the matches when you work the moves and get a feel for them at match pace. Cheltenham came quickly, and what a match that was. The result was 39-39 and went into the 8th criteria but there was one problem – our losses were all mostly pins except for a few. 
 
I could tell that our coaching staff wanted us to dig deeper to find ourselves as true wrestlers and not get pinned.   Needles to say, Thursday was without a doubt the hardest practice I have ever experienced. Intense drilling was followed by five minutes of technique and then the worst of it all - we went a 60-minute grind match. This is a nonstop wrestling match for 60 minutes straight with the same partner showing conditioning and mental toughness. This was the worst 60 minutes of wrestling as I had to go with Justin Giovinco for the first half hour and then Dominic Sabia for the next half hour. They are two of our coaches that wrestled in college and one a two-time state champion. The conditioning was not really that much of a problem. What killed me was the mental toughness aspect of the match. But there was nothing harder that I have done, and for that I am grateful for the opportunity to have the ability to do this with these types of wrestlers. 
 
The most exciting event that has taken place since my last journal entry was the recording of my 150th win. It is a milestone that I am very proud of and will always carry with me. Our team also won our first two matches of the year with stellar performances by some of our kids that hopefully will carry out through the year. To cap the weekend off I was very excited to receive the outstanding wrestler award in the end. There is still much work to be done as the post season is not far away but the work will not stop. 
--John Michael Staudenmayer
Journal Entry #2
 
Thursday, December 30, 2010
 
The past two weeks have been jam packed with preparation for one of the toughest tournaments, Beast of the East. I cannot begin to tell you the last time I and my teammates have worked that hard in the room. The anticipation for the Beast haunted me in my sleep as I would day and night think about the upcoming weekend. With our bodies a little beat up from all the training we had done, I knew that the day before, Friday, we would be polishing up in order to be fresh for Saturday’s tournament. 
Some kids fell asleep on the drive down there Saturday morning but I was wide awake. I had one goal in mind and that was to become a Beast of the East champion. Walking into the arena, we knew that it was going to be a great weekend of wrestling, and we had to be on our ‘A’ game in order to take home a medal. Hours go by and the day just gets longer and longer. 
Although we only had five guys in the tournament, three were still alive by the second day.  The second day was really a blur to me because I was so focused on the task at hand that I am not sure where the day had gone. However, the end result is what really mattered, and I was very thankful that the stressful weekend was over. I had come out of there a Beast of the East champion, and the feeling is indescribable. Lucas Wisniewski also came out successful taking sixth place at a tough 140lb bracket. 
The work for this tournament was done but it was time to get our sights set on the Governor Mifflin Tournament. Preparation was not as grueling for this as it was for Beast but we still had a lot to do. Because we knew this one was not as tough as the Beast, we wanted to produce results as a team, and I knew we could absolutely do that. 
It was a long two-day tournament, but I was proud of our guys as they wrestled tough. They really gave our school a name for itself when we had one seventh place finish, two fourth place finishes and three champions. The thing that really put the icing on the cake was when my brother won the O.W. award. The dedication that he has put in has made him into the wrestler he is now. 
I think what we have learned in these past two weeks is that preparation is the key, and you really have to want the goal you have set for yourself. Having goals is great, but reaching them is even greater. I have no doubt in my mind that this season will bring success for me and our team because we are a dedicated group. I love the work ethic that we are putting in everyday, and now it is time to crank it up a notch. This week starts league matches and we want to prove that we are not the inexperienced team everyone thinks we might be. 
--John Michael Staudenmayer
Journal Entry #1
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Emotions of the upcoming season have led to sleepless nights and the nonstop workouts that begin to slowly take over my life once again. Dreams of winning a big match in the state finals fill my imagination only to wake up to the reality that the season is yet to begin. The hard work, sweat, bloody noses and tears will be at their highest in only a few weeks. 
Being appointed a captain I just pray that no one quits, knowing that we cannot afford to lose the numbers and give forfeits to other teams. Coming into my senior season, I already have some goals in mind like winning “Beast of the East” and a State Championship, but as a team, I just want our kids to get some experience. To me, wrestling has been my life since I can remember, but to new kids, it is only another activity they are trying out for the first time. What to do with these kids? We have to drill the mentality of dedication and responsibility into their heads right away and show them that there is no greater feeling in the world than getting your hand raised in the center of the mat. 
Certifications have come and gone, and now we are only a week away from the first competition. Last weekend, we got a good gauge as to who is going what weights and how we will fare in dual meets. I must say I was impressed with some of the kids that wrestled hard and never gave up even when on their back. 
But with this weekend slowly approaching, I know there is much work to be done. The intensity has to be picked up, and we have to train harder in order to get our hand raised at the Southeast Classic. Going from lifting to practice then working out another practice after dinner is what it is going to take in order to reach my goals and stay on track. 
There is only one state champion in each bracket, and the road to the top of the Hershey podium starts at the Southeast Classic. Kids will really get a look at how they will fare in the District and also within our league because some of those teams will be there this weekend. I don’t want to look too far ahead, but the challenge I am looking forward to and training hard for is Beast of the East next weekend. The Southeast Classic will help me get back into the 2-2-2 match conditioning that I have not gotten since Junior Olympics ended in August. Now that the regular season has begun I am ready for the long journey ahead of me and our team as the wearing season starts in the Perk Valley Gymnasium.
--John Michael Staudenmayer