Roll out the mats and strap on the headpieces — wrestling season is back at Defense Department schools across England.

Wrestling may be the red-headed stepchild to more prominent winter sports, such as basketball, but you try squirming your way out of an opponent’s torso lock. It ain’t easy.

Wrestling is a team sport that is built on the performance of individuals, and Alconbury, Menwith Hill and Lakenheath are gearing up to leave it all out on the mat.

Menwith Hill: Making most with leastAt the very least, the Mustang squad is wrestling for the love of the sport.

All four of them.

The tiny school in Yorkshire has just four members this year, coach Pat Brew said. Last year, it had five.

“In the past, we’ve had teams of as many as 10,” he said. “We’ve never had a huge number. I mean, we have six boys in 11th grade at the school.”

Having such a small number of students makes it nearly impossible to meaningfully compete at the various multi-team matches throughout the season, where point totals from each weight class determine which teams come out on top.

Brew said it’s not always an easy reality for the squad to grasp, a team comprised of senior co-captains Danielle Lutes and Matt New, junior Patrick Roberts and sophomore James Mingus.

Practicing in what Brew calls the “cafe-torium,” an all-purpose room that also serves as the school’s cafeteria and assembly hall, workouts have to be done carefully as each student is in a different weight class.

Sometimes coaches have to practice with the 276-pound New, a returning letterman.

“Our big guy doesn’t have anybody his size to practice against,” Brew said. “Even against our next biggest guy, he still has 90 pounds on him, and that can be hazardous.”

Still, Menwith Hill athletes are used to such adversity, and the kids have come out for the love of the sport.

Heart knows no size.

“We’re just a small school,” Brew said.

Lakenheath: New faces, new systemThe Lancers have seen an influx to their wrestling ranks, with about 30 kids on the team, coach Darryl Brock said. That’s roughly double what they had last year.

“It’s a lot of new blood, thanks to the football coaches,” Brock said.

Working with football coach Matt Martinez, Brock and his staff are looking to get football players into wrestling during the winter and track in the spring, in a effort to provide a continuum for students to work on skills involving speed and reflexes that are transferable between sports.

“We’re trying to make a complete program, from football to wrestling to track,” he said.

But with all that new blood on the team, fundamentals have become a focus early on, Brock said.

“When you consider that two-thirds haven’t wrestled before, we need to work on a lot of basics,” he said.

A lot of times, the new guys make little mistakes such as getting out of the right stance, and they need to be corrected often, senior Lance Veissner said.

Fellow senior Alec Moore said he likes the grueling aspect of wrestling.

“It definitely keeps you in shape,” he said. “It’s fun and a lot tougher than other sports.”

Alconbury: High hopesWhile Menwith Hill struggles to fill its wrestling ranks, the Dragons, with team members coming out of a student body that is slightly larger than the Mustangs, had a good number of hopefuls hit the mats this season, coach Mark Hannsen said.

Fifteen high schoolers and 11 middle schoolers have come out for the team, he said.

“It’s not bad for us,” Hannsen said. “We are at 68 boys in the school.”

Practices are emphasizing the basics, because success starts there, team captain and senior Kendrick Collins said.

“You gotta learn to walk first,” Collins said of the new wrestlers on the team. “Perfect practice makes perfect.”

This year is all about “experience, experience, experience,” Collins said. The team sent six athletes to the Europeans last year, and three of those were first-year wrestlers.

“We’re fairly solid, but we’re looking to improve,” he said.

Wrestling has a team flavor to it, but it’s all one-on-one once you hit the mat, said senior captain Adam Tate, a transfer from London Central.

“If you’re on a team sport and you lose, you can blame someone else,” Tate said. “[With wrestling], if you lose, it’s humiliating. But if you win, it’s all you.”

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