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Published January 23, 2013

Troy Athens wrestling young and looking to improve

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Troy Athens senior Steve Toporowski, left, works on a move with freshman John Staron at a recent practice. Coach John Keyes said his seniors have been instrumental in the development of the underclassmen.

TROY — Giving up what amounts to five pins before they even step on the mat, the dual portion of the wrestling season has been a struggle for Troy Athens.

But when the Red Hawks are on the mat, and the voids have passed them, they have shown they can wrestle with the best in the county.

“We have tough wrestlers, tough kids,” coach John Keyes said.

Some of the toughest include seniors Jazz Hubbard and Steve Toporowski, and junior Thomas Keyes.

Hubbard finished seventh in the Oakland County Tournament at 140 pounds, but he will be wrestling 135 for the rest of the season.

Toporowski also finished seventh at 171, and Thomas Keyes was fourth in the county at 130.

Hubbard and Toporowski are also being counted on for their leadership as much as their wins. Both are captains and have embraced helping the freshmen on the squad, who make up about half of the starting lineup.

“They help a lot, teaching-wise,” Keyes said. “They don’t just pound on them at practice. They’re teaching them moves, getting them ready for their sophomore, junior and senior years.”

The duo said they enjoy the work.

“They are how like we were as freshmen,” Hubbard said. “It’s good to help out and know in the future, they’ll be good.”

“I really enjoy coaching, personally,” Toporowski added. “Like Jazz was saying, everyone is a freshman at some point, and you understand more when you’re older. Also, it helps you reflect what you need to work on by helping them.”

Keyes also remembers the learning curve that takes place for new wrestlers. A 2009 Athens graduate, he started his wrestling as a freshman and finished fifth in the state as a senior.

“You just have to stick with it,” he said. “It’ll all catch on. I talk to them a lot about it.”

For the current crop of grapplers, Hubbard is 25-3 overall and Toporowski is 22-7.
As a team, the Red Hawks are 3-14 overall  but believe they have what it takes to win a Class A district.

They’ll be taking on Warren Mott, Royal Oak High and Troy High in districts. Athens has lost to Mott and Royal Oak by a handful of points, and has split with Troy in two matches, but Keyes and his seniors believe that, with some tweaking to the lineup, the squad will be better prepared this time around.

“It’s a complete mental game. It will come down to whoever wants it more and having tenacity all six minutes of the match,” Toporowski said.

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