After about four-and-a-half weeks of relentless practice and conditioning, Juneau-Douglas High School wrestling coach Kris Mercer rewarded his troops with a much needed five-day break after the Brandon Pilot Invitational Tournament.
Break time ended Monday. JDHS travels to Washington state to face Riverside High School in a dual meet today and then compete in the Deer Park Tournament on Saturday in Spokane.
"They're all smiling again," Mercer said of the first practices after the break. "We were pretty burned out. We took five days off. ... That Pilot takes a lot out of everyone. They get geared up for it and we were pleased with the turnout."
The Pilot Tournament is one of the peaks of the season. The lead-up and preparation for the tournament can prove painfully arduous.
"There's a little peak here in the middle of the season with Pilot and everyone got kind of fried on that," Mercer said. "After that we slumped down and now we rise again and peak at the first week of February."
The state tournament is in the beginning of February. The beginning to the second-half of the season is this weekend.
Juneau-Douglas will bring 11 grapplers to Washington and will likely forfeit the 130, 135 and 275-pound weight classes.
The Crimson Bears will have one big advantage over their Lower 48 opposition. While JDHS has been sweating and wrestling since late October, the Washington state wrestling season just started. This tournament is also a chance to see new competition.
"I'm definitely looking forward to the unknown," said undefeated JDHS wrestler Matt Barry. "It'll be nice to see how I gauge down there. It's their first week and my fifth week so hopefully that'll show."
Despite the slimmed roster, Juneau-Douglas won't be throwing any untested rookies into uncharted rosters.
Juneau-Douglas won two of the three tournaments it competed in this season and will bring quality wrestlers to Washington.
Pilot champs Barry (152 pounds), Clinton Clark (145), Dante Santos (125) and Garret Cox (160) will all make the trip. Joining that quartet will be Ian Otness (103), Kyle Foote (112), Buddy Howard (119), Kurt Barry (140), Samson Keeney (171), Tyler Zimmerman (189) and Jake Mason (215).
"We're not brining any fodder," Mercer said. "We're not bringing anyone who's going to go down easy. They'll be fighting. We're missing three weight classes so I can live with that."
This weekend is the beginning of Juneau-Douglas' busiest stretch of the season.
After Riverside, the Crimson Bears travel to South Anchorage for a tournament, followed by dual meets at Sitka.
This is also the first time Juneau-Douglas won't be wrestling against Southeast Conference competition.
"I consider traveling out of region to be pretty important to get a handle on where we are," Keeney said. "It's good to be good to go out and see what everyone else has and show what we have."
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org