PCMS Looking to Continue Developing Wrestling Program Under Head Coach Triston Pantone

Writer / Melissa Gibson
Photography Provided

Plainfield Community Middle School (PCMS) wrestling Head Coach Triston Pantone is new to his role as head coach this season, but not to the sport.PCMS

Like many students who join him on the mat after school, Pantone first learned wrestling in middle school.

“I love being on the mat,” he says. “I’ve done it since I was a kid. I started with martial arts and always enjoyed grappling, and then moved into wrestling in middle school. Wrestling was completely new to me at the time but I wrestled all through high school – Plainfield High School in fact – and it’s kind of gone full-circle for me.”

The seventh-grade science teacher says teaching a classroom and coaching wrestling are two very different endeavors. It’s given him a new respect for his former coaches.

“It’s interesting because you can’t tell them what to do,” Pantone says. “You really have to show them. As an athlete you don’t usually think about each move; you do what feels right. But in the coaching role you’re being very intentional to break down each move, each step. It’s very detailed instruction.”

If you’ve never seen a wrestling match, there’s quite a bit more that goes into it than one might realize. The moves are precise and calculated, and take practiced skill to accomplish. The petite female can take a male twice her size down to the ground with the right motion. There are records to beat or uphold, and emotional wins and losses that come with every match. Athletes develop mental and emotional resilience, personal responsibility, leadership skills, accountability, self-mastery and focus.

Pantone says wrestling can be broken down into three main parts: bottom, top and neutral. However, each move can be set up in multiple ways, complicating things as athletes develop and learn more about the skill.

“For instance, in the double-leg take down, there are 100 different ways to get it,” Pantone says. “My job is to pick one that is suited for their skill level, athleticism, age and experience, and then know which move will work best for them.”

While at the middle-school level Pantone is mainly teaching young athletes the fundamentals of the sport, there’s a much larger picture in place for Plainfield Community School Corporation’s wrestling future.

Jake Jones, Plainfield High School wrestling coach, coached at PCMS for several years before being named head coach at the high school this fall.

Jones and Pantone work closely together to create a program that develops wrestlers to the best of their ability.

“Coach Jones has a vision,” Pantone says. “He’s very driven and very intense. I’ve watched him coach and he really wants them to go out there and do their best. He’s shared his vision with me and we’re working the program that way, in order to have them ready for the next level. In the next couple of years we should have a really solid program with the ultimate goal of getting our high school wrestlers to state.”

PCMSJones also coaches the Quaker Wrestling Club, teaching students aged 5 and up the skill of wrestling, and giving some athletes a head start when they join the middle school team.

It gives Pantone a variety of skill levels when athletes join PCMS wrestling. Some of them have been training for seven years while others are new, like Pantone when he reached middle school.

His roster consists of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders, aged 11 to 13. There are 48 wrestlers on the team, three of which are female.

It may seem unique to outsiders, but Pantone says coed teams are becoming more and more the norm today, and with an eclectic group of young boys and girls just beginning to hone their craft, it’s a unique experience all around.

“It’s cool to see all the variety,” he says. “I think what interests them the most is the physicality of the sport. It’s super intriguing and exciting to watch, but for a lot of people, they don’t get interested until they’ve seen a wrestling match.”

Once audience members or potential athletes see the sport firsthand, they’re often hooked.

However, for Pantone, coaching is just one of many factors of the sport.

“There’s a lot of discipline,” he says. “They get discipline at home and at school, but it’s a different type on the mat. You have the ability to really injure someone seriously out there, and you have to learn how to wrestle clean and build your skill so you’re not hurting another person. The point is to compete and they learn how to do that in a controlled environment. There’s really no other sport like it.”

Participants also learn how to work together, problem solve, and never underestimate. After all, the females on the team have made it clear that they are contenders, even up against the toughest young men.

Pantone says the team-building aspect has been important, and led by Assistant Coach Mike Conley, a veteran and former police officer.

“Coach Conley is not what you’d expect at all,” Pantone says. “There’s a warm vibe to him and he’s great at team-building exercises. The room feels welcoming and he’s been a huge part of that.”

The coaches begin most practices with a simple question: “Who has beef?”

“If you have a problem with someone else on the team, we’re going to wrestle it out on the mat and leave it there,” Pantone says. “The kids have fun with it.”PCMS

The wrestling program at the high school has been successful over the past few years. With Jones now leading the high school and Pantone stepping in to lead the middle school, Pantone says he knows they have big shoes to fill, but they’re looking forward to continuing to build.

“We want to continue what Coach Jones started and now we’re just looking at consistency,” Pantone says. “We want to keep moving forward as we build this program, and over a period of time we’ll see that success on the mat.”

For a full PCMS wrestling schedule, visit plainfield.k12.in.us/o/athletics/page/team-schedules.

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