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Breaking wrestling down to basics
Wrestling never actually left Willows nor did Willows ever give up on wrestling, but with new head coach Tom Cox at the helm of the Willows High school wrestling program, the days of Willows wrestling glory appear to be making a return.
Cox, a special education teacher for 15 years, now teaches at Willows High. Having previously coached wrestling at Upper Lake High school for seven years, where he also taught, he brings with him a wealth of experience, short- and long-term goals, as well as admiration for legendary coach Ed Zuckerman.
"It was a perfect fit for me," says Cox.
For Cox, who manages to balance teaching, being a husband to wife Lori, and father to Hannah 7, Chloe 3 and Asa 2, short-term goals for the wrestling program are a must, but he also has big long-term dreams for Willows wrestling.
While the program needs work to be rebuilt, Cox is quick to point out that they are still building upon the blocks Zuckerman put down, and that they have already seen positive results. Cox commends the efforts and hard work of Eric Massa, a Willows graduate who helps out and runs practices, and has risen through the Willows wrestling programs and been part of the wrestling community since he was 5, as well as Frank Alves, also a former WHS wrestler.
Of all the boxes on Cox's list, community involvement is of utmost importance.
"We need to get the people and the kids in the community who love wrestling to get more involved in it," Cox said.
He points out that you need to get kids and community interested while hailing the efforts of Chris Alves, who he says, "Has built a phenomenal program at the middle school as well as the small kids programs."
Programs like Alves' help lay down the foundation of any successful sports program.
Involving the community is a major step, but Cox has his other bases covered, having dreamt up and decided both short-term and long-term goals that will bring Willows into a new and successful era.
In the next year or two, Cox would like to see his team increase in size — above 30-40 would be ideal — as well as compete for the Division III title.
In the next five to six years, he wants to have the program going strong and able to compete with other successful, local programs. Cox gives immense kudos to the Orland wrestling program.
Further down the road, the coach hopes to get his athletes in a position to have opportunities for 30-plus matches, along with matches against larger, harder opponents. He attributes his philosophy for the need for each kid to have 100 matches under their belt before they're a good wrestler, to longtime Corning wrestling coach Don Minto.
Aside from being very goal-oriented and driven in regards to wrestling, Cox is also focused on helping his kids become better at academic pursuits, having put in place a mandatory study hall four days per week so that everyone maintains their grades and finishes homework.
Cox believes that showing your athletes you care makes a world of difference.
"The more adults show interest in the kids, the better the kids are at everything they do," he said.
Showing your interest in all areas of his athletes' lives is part of his role says Cox, commenting, "I feel wrestling is unique. Yes, it is an individual sport, but we preach the team mentality, and that makes a difference. We are like family."
CONTACT Emily Saint-Evens at 824-7990 or firstname.lastname@example.org