With a father who had a sixth-place finish in Missouri’s state wrestling tournament in 1978, you would think Rock Bridge senior 171-pounder Chris Masters would be involved in the sport from the day he could grapple at his father’s leg.
Instead, Masters did not start wrestling until his sophomore year at Rock Bridge. Having to face far more experienced opponents, Masters knew that he had to outwork the competition in the offseason in order to succeed.
Rock Bridge wrestling coach Brook Harlan has witnessed Masters efforts to make up for his lack of experience.
“He’s always trying to get better,” Harlan said. “Putting in the extra time on you own is the key. I know he’s been working out a lot on his own, other than practice, and we have pretty grueling practices for about three hours after school.”
Masters said that he searched for as many live wrestling matches as possible over this past summer, because doing drills takes a wrestler only so far.
“Until you’ve wrestled live against somebody that’s counteracting your moves or doing moves that you have to counteract, it’s a lot different (than drills),” Masters said.
Alan Masters is the man that took home sixth place in states from Aurora High School, in the southwestern part of the state in 1978. He said that he didn’t want to force his son into doing something that he wasn’t enthusiastic about. Especially when that something is as grueling as wrestling is.
“Wrestling is such a tough sport, physically and mentally both,” Alan Masters said. “If my kids decided to want to do it, I wanted them to make the decision to pursue it themselves instead of me shoving it down their throat.”
Chris Masters entered Rock Bridge with football on his mind. He thought that would be the sport he would play and enjoy through high school. But after his sophomore year, he realized the game wasn’t for him. And the mat came calling to replace it.
“I don’t have the best 40 time, so there’s no way I could run receiver, play running back or anything,” he said. “Whereas (in wrestling) I don’t have to be able to run very fast, I just have to be able to outwork the guy.”
A small mistake in football, such as a missed block, can mean a poor play, but not a poor game. A small mistake is wrestling can lead to being forced onto your back and being pinned.
“Last year he did OK and just was making small mistakes,” Charlie Lay, another Rock Bridge wrestler, said. “This year he can turn those around and have a good season.”
Wrestlers move differently than other athletes. They bounce around and dance in with their opponents like a boxer. And just like in boxing, being caught flat-footed can leave a wrestler primed for trouble.
“A transition for me was trying to get relaxed in my matches and not being so choppy coming in,” Chris Masters said. “We used to say that I looked like a robot coming into the match. I was stomping out there all square-footed and flat-footed. And now I come into the (wrestling) room when we wrestle live and I’m on my toes a lot more, I’m a lot more relaxed.”
Chris Masters said that wrestling has made him feel much better about himself. He is much more confident and disciplined than he was before he went out for the sport.
“When you train in a wrestling room, you get the mentality that you may hate it, you may want to quit, and it’s not a thing that you want to do,” he said. “But when I think about it in the long run, me working through all the tough times and tribulations will definitely benefit me the most.”
Wrestling has become something else for father and son to share. The two already enjoyed hunting, camping and being involved in the Boy Scouts together.
Alan Masters said that he focuses more on what is going on in his son’s mind rather than his muscles when it comes to wrestling.
“There are days you feel like quitting,” Alan Masters said. “The parental job I have is support and help him to focus on the good things that are coming out of it.”
Alan Masters is happy to see his son using a high school sport for what it is designed to do: provide structure and develop young athletes into polished adults.
“I’m just enjoying the heck out of being able to get back involved with it (wrestling) and watch my son,” he said.