The 2015 DODDS-Europe wrestling postseason officially begins Feb. 7 with sectional meets across the continent. But for many wrestlers, the season’s final push has already begun.

With the final meets of the regular season set for Saturday, hopefuls on deep rosters such as Patch, Wiesbaden and Lakenheath are still working their way up the weight-class depth charts in search of a berth and favorable seed at sectionals and the coveted distinction as their team’s designated point-earner.

“The wrestlers that know they are in the running to earn one of the two spots for sectionals definitely pick up the pace,” Patch coach Norm Matzke said.

That’s a common theme across DODDS-Europe as coaches prepare their teams for the season-defining brackets in store over the next few weeks. Experienced wrestlers are girding themselves for another grueling trip through the sectional round and the European tournament, set for Wiesbaden on Feb. 13-14. Younger wrestlers are applying late adjustments to the skills and techniques they’ve honed all winter.

Though they’ve attempted to maintain maximum effort throughout the short eight-week DODDS-Europe season, coaches and wrestlers know an extra gear is required to endure the process.

“We have tried to keep our wresters at full throttle all season,” Lakenheath coach Darryl Brock said. “They know that as the season goes on, the practices get tougher.”

AFNORTH coach Greg Blankenship agreed.

“It becomes a greater test of will, focus and execution,” Blankenship said.

While it’s still a robust sport, many coaches across DODDS-Europe have reported decreased turnout for wrestling, a trend that has thinned the European field overall at many weight classes, particularly at the low and high extremes.

“We are a small team, but the kids we have are competitive,” Bitburg coach Brian Bent said.

Vicenza coach Adam Ridgely said he’s fielding a “much smaller team” than he’d anticipated, but is happy with the group he’ll lead into the postseason.

“I feel like we have a lot of talent in our small numbers,” Ridgely said.

The decreased numbers could create opportunities for new contenders to advance deeper into brackets.

“We’re really excited going into sectionals,” Brock said. “We have some wrestlers with good records that could advance to Europeans.”

This weekend’s regular-season finales will find Lakenheath headlining a stout six-team northern Europe field at Alconbury; Vilseck hosting fellow Division I hopeful Kaiserslautern along with regional opponents Ansbach and Hohenfels; defending champion Patch tangling with top contenders Wiesbaden and Ramstein, which will host the five-team meet; and five Italian programs gathering in Aviano.

Twitter: @broomestripes

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