In a corner of the musty wrestling room, deep in the bowels of Rock Bridge High School, junior Dan Shufeldt watched assistant coach Joe Collier and head coach Brook Harlan demonstrate different strategies for Shufeldt to employ in future matches. Shufeldt, as well as his teammates, will need some new moves as they take on a familiar foe Jefferson City at 6 p.m. today at Rock Bridge.
This will be the third time this year the Bruins and Jays will share the same arena. Previously, the two teams had both competed in tournaments at Hickman and Francis Howell North, as well as meeting at the end of last season. Harlan said he thinks that the familiarity with Jefferson City is a plus for both teams.
“It’s going to give them as much of an edge as it does us,” Harlan said. “It’s definitely something that is a plus for both sides. It gives both sides the chance to pay the other back a little bit.”
Payback is a possibility for Shufeldt, Rock Bridge’s primary wrestler in the 285-pound class. He is slated to wrestle the Jays’ Michael Johnson. The two have met each of the past two seasons, with the first being at the Francis Howell North Tournament in 2006. The most recent meeting came at this year’s Hickman Invitational, where the state’s third-ranked 285-pound wrestler edged Shufeldt for the title. Harlan said he thinks Shufeldt showed great improvement in that match, losing by only two points.
“Dan has come along tremendously, and he’s been closer (to Johnson) every time,” he said. “I think he got caught in one in that match. I’m looking forward to that match again. No matter who wins that, I think it’s going to help both wrestlers prepare for state and districts.”
Shufeldt said that competing against quality competition like Johnson helped him improve overall as a wrestler, and gave him a boost of confidence going into tonight’s matchup.
“I feel more comfortable against him than I did at first,” Shufeldt said. “I’m more confident against him than I was. Last year at Francis Howell North, he beat me in a close match. It was good experience in my first year of wrestling. I’ve been closer and closer each time.”
On the other end of the spectrum, junior Kyle Lewis’s history with his probable opponent, the Jays’ Josh Roling, favors Lewis. The two have met twice this season, both at Hickman and Francis Howell North, with Lewis coming out on top in a pair of close matches.
The most recent meeting, a 1-0 victory for Lewis in the third-place match at Francis Howell North, was tight throughout. In the first period, the two 140-
pounders wrestled to a 0-0 stalemate. Roling deferred and started on the mat in the second period, but was unable to escape against Lewis. With 35 seconds left in the third and final period, Lewis scored with an escape and held on for the 1-0 victory.
Lewis said that though Roling has yet to beat him, that doesn’t mean that Rwoling can’t succeed tonight.
“I’m fairly confident going in,” he said. “But he probably knows a strategy to beat me. I have to treat him like every other wrestler and go in and win.”
Lewis also said the mental aspect of this match could be a deciding factor.
“I think it sits in the back of his mind a little bit,” Lewis said. “But in the back of my mind, I have to be thinking about what he’s going to do. If I overlook him, there’s no telling what could happen. I have to wrestle smart.”
The timing of this meet is another important factor. Shufeldt said he thinks wrestling such a quality opponent will help the Bruins as they prepare for districts and state in upcoming weeks.
“I think that wrestling them this close to districts, with a week to wrestle with Coach Collier, will help,” Shufeldt said. “He (Johnson) is about the same build as most guys in my district. It’s good resistance, so I will be ready for districts, and we have a strong district.”
Harlan agrees with his junior wreslter.
“That’s what we want to get ready for,” he said. “We want to wrestle teams of this caliber right before we head into districts. We always have a good rivalry with Jeff(erson) City. We’re always looking for a good match.”