Mathis aiming for 20th victory in Danville Invitational Saturday

January 30, 2004|MIKE MARSEE

As Philip Mathis goes, so goes the Danville wrestling team.

That's not true in the traditional sense, but he is a good illustration of what the Admirals are and what they are trying to become.

Mathis is a second-year wrestler enjoying his first taste of success this season and hoping to parlay that into far better results down the road. Danville is a rebuilding team doing reasonably well, but the Admirals are hoping for better days in the future.

Mathis and the Admirals will show what they can do Saturday in the 15-team Danville Invitational, their biggest home competition of the season. It's being held at Kentucky School for the Deaf because the 12th Region All "A" Classic was being held at Danville also this week.


Mathis, a sophomore who competes in the 152-pound class, earned his first medal early this season at Anderson County, and he's improving at a rapid pace as he gains more experience.

"I think I've definitely improved a lot," he said. "I'm getting more mat time, and I'm getting a little stronger."

He realizes advancing deeper into tournaments is accelerating his improvement.

"Getting more mat time helps you improve, no matter whether the other guy's good or bad," he said.

Mathis said his confidence, an area in which he said he was lacking last year, has also improved.

"Last year I kind of had low self-esteem, but this year I'm winning a lot more matches so it's up," he said.

So is Mathis' dedication to the sport, according to Danville coach Jeff Selby.

"He's always working, doing what he needs to do to get better, asking questions about what he needs to do," Selby said. "He's come a long way, and he really wants to get better."

He needs four wins to reach 20

Mathis needs four wins in his bracket Saturday to reach 20 wins on the season.

"I want to try to get it at our home tournament," he said. "It'll mean a lot more to me if I can get it at home."

The Admirals would love to make a strong showing at home, but with their limited numbers, it won't be easy.

"If any of them can get a fifth-place medal, I'd be pleased with them," Selby said.

There are only eight wrestlers in the program, plus four more at the middle school level. Of the eight high-schoolers, none of whom are seniors, five have earned medals at invitationals this season.

"For a small team, I think it's real good," Mathis said.

Dylan Hester claimed the Admirals' first first-place medal of the season by winning at Harrison County's tournament.

"At different times, they've all had a good weekend," Selby added. "But from here on out, they need to have a good weekend every weekend."

The postseason is three weeks away, and Mathis already has his goals clearly defined.

"I'd like to be a state qualifier," he said. "If I can get to the state, I can work on next year, and my goal is to get a medal at state next year."

Mathis said he'd also like to see the team get better by getting bigger.

"We try to get freshmen out every year," he said. "And next year we might have a middle school team. If we could get them started at middle school age, we'd be a lot better."

Mathis was drawn into the sport through his friendship with 2003 graduate Justin Johnston, who was third in the state last year at 119 pounds, and his love of backyard wrestling with his friends and two brothers.

"I've kind of liked throwing kids around since I was younger," Mathis said. "I think it's good to be able to legally throw somebody around without getting in trouble for it. I think it's a good sport for me."

Matches begin about 10:30 a.m.

Matches will begin Saturday at about 10:30 a.m., and the finals are scheduled to start at about 7 p.m.

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