Huff to lead grapplers into new era

By Erik Andrews - For the News-Tribune

“There is no such thing as ‘replacing’ a long-time Hall Of Fame coach,” Gary Huff readily acknowledges.

He’s taking the reins of the Phoenix wrestling program from 30-year veteran Craig Enos, who has retired.

Still, it is Oberlin’s good fortune that the mantle of leadership will be passed — you see, Huff is a Hall of Fame member himself due to his own mat prowess during his competitive days at Lorain High School.

A Lorain County native, he brings personal experience on the mat as well as several years of coaching experience in the Lorain and Westlake programs.

Huff has already gotten to know a good number of the Oberlin High student-athletes. During the fall season, he strategized as the defensive coordinator for the Phoenix football team. With some on-field success there, the team was fertile ground for recruiting a few new members for this winter’s wrestling squad.

“As we talk to the student-athletes about how closely football and wrestling skills — the balance, the strength, the techniques — all are closely related, the kids seemed eager to continue improving one sport with the other. Those who have come out are already seeing the confluence of skills and are getting better each day,” he said.

To go with the new recruits, Huff will rely on his returning wrestlers to provide leadership both on the mat and around the locker room. Returning juniors Robert and Reggie Bouchonville and sophomores James Thomas and Riley Horning will be leaned on, not just in teaching the more advanced moves and mat savvy that comes with the experience, but also with knowing what it takes to compete one-on-one for six hyper-focused, strength-sapping minutes, he said.

”In a team sport, you might occasionally catch a player taking a play or two off. However, if you do that in wrestling, there’s nobody else there to cover for you — you’ll be on your back instantly.”

Huff brings along assistant Adam Thompson, who will work with the Langston Middle School wrestlers. In a nice bump from last year, five seventh-graders are out on the mats this winter to represent the Phoenix.

The team opens its season this weekend at the Knights Of Columbus Tournament in Avon Lake. Always one of the toughest tournaments in the area, the young Phoenix will get a quick test of their early work.

The team will also compete in two additional tournaments at Cuyahoga Heights and Black River before the holiday break.

By Erik Andrews

For the News-Tribune