The following questions were answered by North Reading-Lynnfield wrestling head coach Craig Stone, who recently led the team to an unbeaten regular season and North Division 3 title. Stone has been a wrestling coach for 28 years, including nine with the co-op team, which he initiated in 2004 after Lynnfield's numbers declined and North Reading's program was dropped in 2001.
What has been the key to the Lynnfield-North Reading team's success this year?
Our team depth (numbers), talent (we returned 5 sectional place finishers from last year and 23 returning wrestlers with experience), maturity of returning wrestlers (juniors and seniors who impacted far above what I could imagined this year), the impact of a couple of talented freshman, and off season work have all led to our success this year.
How would you describe yourself as a coach?
Concerned, caring, dedicated all come to mind. I also pride myself on communication with the wrestlers, parents and community.
Does it take any time with a combined team to work on chemistry among your wrestlers?
Each year with new team members, and this year we had 24 new wrestlers, you have to blend the old with the new. Returning wrestlers have a responsibility (sharing skills, techniques, strategies) to lead by example. We have always had a welcoming atmosphere to wrestlers from both schools; the camaraderie is at a high level, working together has never been a problem. Opponents on Thanksgiving and teammates on the following Monday!
What is it about the sport and the team that keep you coming back each year?
What I enjoy most about the sport is watching the growth and development of the wrestlers as athletes and young adults. I enjoy seeing them being successful both on and off the mat.
How do you find the balance with wrestling between it being an individual and team sport?
Wrestling is a team sport with an individual emphasis. When the wrestler becomes better the team improves as well. They push each other at practice each day, improving their skills and conditioning, and then they have to wrestle off with each other to see who will own the starting position (weight class) for that week. Regardless of the outcome, the wrestler accepts the result and is motivated to improve and try again later. You need to cover 14 weight classes to have a good dual meet season. Each weight class carries with it the opportunity to earn 6 points, and all 14 wrestlers contribute to the outcome of that dual meet. However, success is not always measured by winning whether it is the individual or the team. It’s my job as coach to help the wrestler, and team, understand the progress being made, the impact the wrestler has on the team regardless of his role, and what the wrestler and the team can do to improve.