HUBBARD - Long ago, Scott Lewis represented Hubbard in wrestling and experienced more than his fair share of successes inside the old Roosevelt Elementary School.
Lewis claims to have left reminiscing about the good ol' days well behind him, but on Wednesday in a dual meet with Liberty, Lewis got to feel a little nostalgia inside the home gym - the first since taking over the program this year. His Eagles gave him cause to celebrate, beating the Leopards, 52-21.
"It's always a good atmosphere in here," Lewis said. "It's a small gym, everything echoes - it brings the intensity up a little bit. The headaches, I don't like, but it went well."
Tribune Chronicle / Dave Dermer
Shirley Flynn of Hubbard, top, controls the back of James Zimbardi of Liberty during their 113-pound bout Wednesday night at Hubbard.
Tribune Chronicle / Dave Dermer
Justin Halicki, of Hubbard, top, attempts to flip over Ernie Turner of Liberty over onto his back during their 138 pound match Wednesday night at Hubbard
Lewis' counterpart, Liberty coach Hadi A. Hadi, had reason for nostalgia as well, considering he wrestled on the mats inside that school back when he participated in the sport in high school. Hadi agreed with Lewis' assessment of competing at Hubbard's home gym.
"It's a hard place to coach because of the echo," Hadi said. "When the crowd gets excited, kids can't hear what you want, kids get shook up a little bit - it's a hostile environment, and we like that because we try to create a hostile environment ourselves. It's very difficult to wrestle here, and coming here is a good thing for (my wrestlers). It's going to benefit them down the road in dual meets."
Hubbard jumped out to a big lead before the match started because of four Liberty forfeits, gifting the Eagles 24 points right off the bat. Struggling with depth, the Leopards couldn't do much about it, as injuries and illnesses prior to the match took their toll.
The Leopards' task to pull back that handicap became a tall order after the first match, when Hubbard junior Shirley Flynn earned a major decision over Liberty freshman James Zimbardi in the 113-weight class to increase the deficit to 28 points.
"Last year, we had a forfeit here or there, but this year, we're giving up four - you can't win like that," Hadi said. "We had a couple of kids out, some kids got the flu, but it's a part of this sport. So, we just deal with it, do the best we can."
Outside of the forfeits, pinning proved to be a theme, with Hubbard and Liberty combining for six pins in the match - three for each team.
One of the more impactful pins occurred in the 170-class between Hubarrd's Ian Lowry and Liberty's Daryl McLendon. The Leopards had posted back-to-back pins by Dai'Quen Greene and Marik Muse, and McLendon looked well on his way toward a major decision over Lowry, leading by five points in the second period. Lowry managed to turn the tide and pinned McLendon for six points.
"That's what I tell these kids - you never know when you'll get the opportunity to pin somebody," Lewis said. "If you've got the opportunity, you have to pin them because it may be your only shot you have. Take it when you can. (Lowery) got that shot, and he was able to stick it."
While Lewis said the win over Liberty was a good one for a program that has had three different coaches in five years, this Saturday's home meet against West Branch, Alliance and Poland will prove to be a good barometer as to just how good his team is.
"The real test is this weekend," Lewis said. "We're going to find out who the boys are and who the men are."