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Intensity: The Key to Practice

March 2, 2011
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Liberty wrestling will look to put their intense practices to the test this weekend at the NCAA East Regional Championship. The action starts at 2:30 p.m. in the Vines Center.
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Over the last couple of years, the Liberty wrestling coaching staff has developed a theme of intensity and position for the squad. This has been displayed through a stringent practice and strengthening schedule.

At the beginning of the year, head coach Jesse Castro admitted that he was impressed by the newcomer's reaction to the schedule, saying that "They are really working hard." The returning grapplers have also increased their intensity in practice, and as Castro commented, "If our work has any reflection on our success, I'm excited about it."

The intensity has certainly paid off, as the team's 2010-11 campaign finished with a 14-7 dual mark. This included an eight-bout win streak, which is the longest single-season dual win streak in 20 years.

New standards are consistently being set for the team in practice, beginning as far back as the start of the year. Early in the season, Castro commented that "Our kids wrestled two, thirty-minute matches; we've never done that before." This type of training allows the Flames to "maintain a higher baseline of intensity throughout the course of a seven-minute match," as Castro reported.

Part of the intensity has been brought on by assistant coach, Joe Pantaleo. Pantaleo brings conditioning and training leadership as well as a successful collegiate career to the program. He competed for Michigan, becoming a two-time All-American at 158 pounds.

Castro commented on Pantaleo's impact, saying, "He's taken it to a higher level. He's demanding things of these guys now that we weren't doing at the end of the year last year." Additionally, Castro said "He brings high intensity, high expectation. We see the discipline of the wrestlers in the program vastly improving from just the last year."

Redshirt senior Chad Porter has even noticed the change in the last couple of years, saying that the program will continue to get better because of it. "I see the program continuing to rise. I think as these guys buy into Coach Pantaleo a little bit more and start training through the summer and really putting everything into it, you're going to seeing people place in nationals and the team break into the Top 20."

Fellow redshirt senior, Josh Pelletier sees similar changes, saying, "Every single year we've made huge leaps, even from just last year to this year, especially as far as intensity during practice, hard work and what guys are putting into it."

On practice and the continued rise of Liberty wrestling, Pelletier continued, saying, "Last year we had Coach Pantaleo show up and it was still really intense. I feel like the young group of guys have bought into it and that helps the older group get back into the more intense practicing. I think in the future this program is going to be an awesome program."

As the team looks forward to the NCAA East Regional this weekend, they'll look to use their intensity in practice to defeat their competitors and capture their fifth-consecutive team title.

This feature has been a part of LibertyFlames.com's lead-in coverage for the 2011 NCAA East Regional Championship. The website will run a wrestling-related feature story each day, helping prepare readers for Sunday's national qualifying event. Be sure to check back each day for the latest wrestling story at LibertyFlames.com.