Archive for Thursday, March 3, 2005

Averill’s words right on target

March 3, 2005

— When it comes to slogans, it seems few people are as quick to produce a verse as coaches.

Take, for example, Kansas City Royals manager Tony Peña and his infectious "We Believe" motto of two years ago that fans embraced as the ball club rolled to its first winning record since 1994. Remember also the classic Royals slogans of the early '90s, such as "Royals Baseball: It's a Hit!" or "You've gotta love these guys."

Then there are others that find their way onto T-shirts, such as "We bust ours to kick yours," or "Play like a champion."

Count the Lansing High wrestling coach among those who have come up with catchy slogans that their teams have embraced. Ron Averill's motto for the year was "Lansing Wrestling: Where preparation meets opportunity."

Averill grinded that phrase into his wrestlers' heads throughout the season, repeated it in quotes to reporters all year long and even had it inscribed across the back of his squad's snazzy state meet T-shirts.

And so it was at last weeks' regional wrestling meet; Averill couldn't help but smile as a school-record 12 Lions qualified for the Class 5A state wrestling tournament, annihilating the previous record of eight qualifiers. Kyle Grape, Sean Flynn, Nick Flynn, Ryan Civils, Kyle Buehler, Dennis Kessler, Stewart Jones, Casey Caton and Logan Ryan were expected to be locks for the state meet.

There were a few surprises, though. Junior Lance Fink's qualification at 171 pounds, junior Bobby Hamilton at 119 pounds and freshman Chance Thackston at 103 pounds. These were the three the slogan may have been meant for the most.

Thackston took his licks early in the season, but he continued to work hard and made a major push during the final month of the season to earn his state berth.

Fink was another guy who fit that mold. He fell one match shy of a state berth last year, but then made a jump from the 152-pound weight class to 171 midway through this season in order to help the team. In doing so, Fink handed a nearly 20-pound weight advantage to his opponents, and his record suffered because of it. When the Kaw Valley League meet rolled around, however, Fink again hit his stride and crashed the state party.

Hamilton's story may fit Averill's phrase perfectly, though. Hamilton is an LHS junior who didn't have the oodles of wrestling experience or a history of major success. In fact, he had just four regular-season varsity wins and was unseeded heading into the regional meet.

He never let that faze him. Instead, Hamilton seized the moment, stole someone else's dreams and made them his own.

"I'd like to think that he finally reached that point where the preparation met opportunity and he was able to put it all together," Averill said.

There it was again, but it wouldn't be the last time Averill used his favorite line. He said it again and again as Buehler, Civils and the Flynn brothers won their state medals.

Finally, in the moments after Grape won his state championship match, the slogan resurfaced once more. Averill spoke in-depth about the season-long hard work and preparation Grape put in to ready himself for his shining moment. Grape's preparation, Averill said, was so thorough that the coach had very little doubt his guy would win the state championship.

It was at this point that I could no longer resist asking, "So, coach, would you say the preparation met opportunity?"

To that, Averill chuckled and replied, "Yes, the preparation definitely met the opportunity."

The Lions' final line at state was a school-record 12 state qualifiers, a record five state medals and the program's third state champion. Talk about preparation meeting opportunity.

Turns out Averill was right all along.

- Chris Wristen's column appears weekly on the blogs page at lansingcurrent.com and occasionally in print.

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