MSU wrestlers take it easy in calm before the storm


Spring break is a time when many students treasure getting out of the slush and snow of Michigan and relaxing on a nice warm beach — but not for the MSU wrestling team.

The only beaches the team will be seeing are the pictures on their friends’ Facebook pages, and the only water they’ll be in is the pool in IM Sports-West.

After finishing off the regular season with a 27-10 loss Friday, the team is taking it easy this week.

Sophomore 184-pounder John Rizqallah said the experience he’ll get at the Big Ten Championships far outweighs the warm weather he could be experiencing on spring break.

“It’s comforting that every wrestler in the country doesn’t have a spring break,” Rizqallah said. ”Spring break doesn’t mean anything to me personally in comparison to what wrestling does.”

Wrestlers aren’t known for their swimming ability, but in preparation for the Big Ten Championships beginning March 9 , the Spartans are getting used to it.

“We’ve been going so hard for so long, we just want to give them not only a physical break, but a mental break too,” head coach Tom Minkel said. “(Tuesday) the guys played dodgeball in the basketball court. (Thursday) they’re going to swim.”

Minkel said they’re trying to find the middle ground where the swimming feels less like training and more like a break.

Sophomore 157-pounder Ryan Watts is going to get some extra help — assistant coach Chris Williams is bringing his daughter’s floaties to help keep Watts’ head above water.

The team has been working out since September, and Minkel said they’re already in shape, so the goal of having activities outside of the wrestling room is just to stay active.

“There are two components to your training,” he said. “One is volume, and two is intensity. Early in the season we do a lot of volume and consequently the intensity can’t be too high. As the season goes, those go in opposite directions. Now, it’s come in short, go really hard for a little bit, and leave it at that.”

Minkel said another important component the team is focusing on is to get well rested.

After missing the last two dual meets because of a knee injury, Rizqallah said the lowered intensity helps him reset his mind and get healthy.

“At this point in the season, it’s really mentally draining to come in here every day, and it feels like you’re kind of grinding,” he said. “We’ll warm up for 10 minutes, drill for 20 minutes, wrestle a 10 minute match and then probably go home. Less than an hour practice.”

Following a week of dodgeball and swimming, the coaches will ramp up the intensity the week before the meet.

Junior No. 7 heavyweight Mike McClure said the push is exactly what the team needs before the biggest tournament of the year so far.

“I definitely feel it is necessary, because that’s what you’re going to see at the Big Tens,” McClure said. “We have this week to recover, and go into a grind next week.”

To simulate the atmosphere at the Big Ten Championships, Minkel said he pipes in crowd noise and gives the wrestlers a time warning to get them in the right mindset.

“(We) try to get the kids to visualize that environment,” he said. “Lots of pressure, lots of intensity, so we’ll try to simulate that. It’s so different than anything else you do.”

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