Wrestler’s move to mat was about chemistry
Yong joined the high school wrestling team last year after losing a bet to his friend Zach Carriero as to who would score higher on their chemistry test. Because Yong lost, he had to accompany Carriero to the weight room one day after school.
While in the weight room, Yong said, Carriero, a member of the Scarborough High School football and baseball teams, was recruited by head wrestling coach Shane Stephenson to be on the team. Since Carriero was Yong’s ride home, he was forced to stay at school until practice was over.
“I had to go to practice with him and I kept coming back,” said Yong, who is wrestling again in the 106-pound weight class.
It quickly became apparent that Yong had the talent needed to excel in wrestling.
“He is not a large-framed wrestler,” Stephenson said prior to a Dec. 10 home match against Kennebunk and Sanford. “He is the textbook example on the mat. He is a student of the sport.”
It was a tough transition at first, but through hard work, Yong became acclimated to the sport.
“It was hard at the beginning, but throughout the year, I got better and better. I ended up being a qualifier for the state meet my first year, which was pretty surprising,” Yong said.
That, Stephenson said, is no small feat.
“He is good,” Stephenson said of Yong. “To be a first-year state qualifier, never wrestling before, is a great accomplishment. It is a tough thing to do.”
Stephenson said as a wrestler in the 106-pound weight class — the lightest of the 14 weight classes — Yong plays an important role on the team.
“He fills a pretty tough weight class. You don’t find a lot of guys wresting at 106,” he said.
Stephenson said in other states, such as New York, they allow middle school students to wrestle at the high school level to help fill some of the lighter weight classes. Maine does not allow middle school wrestlers and high school wrestlers to compete against each other.
Yong, who won both his matches against Kennebunk and Sanford Dec. 10, said he enjoys both trying to physically and mentally beat opponents on the wrestling mat.
“It’s pretty mental too, because if you are behind in points, you can’t let that break you down. You have to stay focused,” Yong said. “It’s not all about strength. It’s about who doesn’t get tired and who can last the longest on the mat.”
Yong said the team complements their strength training with a lot of cardio to build stamina.
To give his wrestlers the best advantage on the mat, Stephenson said he is constantly looking for new training regimens, often adapting workouts from Division 1 colleges he found online, or from his time as a wrestler at the University of Southern Maine. He also works closely with Joe Pistone, who runs the Scarborough Middle School wrestling program and is the head wrestling coach at USM.
“Teaching these young wrestlers college workouts now, can help them later if they decide to continue on with wrestling,” Stephenson said.
This year’s team, again co-ed, is made up nine boys and four girls and includes only two seniors. Stephenson said girls are becoming increasingly interested in wrestling. Last season one of Scarborough’s top wrestlers was Taylor Wood, who wrestled in the 113 weight class.
“There are more and more (girls) getting into the sport. They bring a lot to the sport. Their flexibility is insane,” Stephenson said. Maine has yet to have a girl wrestler win a state championship.
While only one meet into the season, Yong is optimistic about Scarborough’s wrestling team this year.
“I think we will do pretty well. We have about every weight class full. We may have one or two open, but I think we will all do well,” he said.
The team was scheduled to wrestle against Massabesic Wednesday, Dec. 17. Massabesic was the Class A runner-up five of the last six years.
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