Hartford, Conn. - Flashback to this time a year ago: The Trinity College wrestling team had just wrapped up its final match before winter break at conference foe Williams College. They lost to the Ephs, 53-0, in their second dual match of the season, and then had a bulk of time off from competition for exams and the holidays. They met back on campus before the new year, and kicked off their winter break competition with a dual quad-match at Stevens, where they lost the first match to the Ducks, 53-0, their next to College of New Jersey, 46-3, and lastly they fell to Hunter, 29-18. Needless to say, it was a long bus ride back from Hoboken that Sunday night.
Trinity Coach Marques Gales' science class was back in session the following day, and he and Bantam Assistant Coach John Gabordi, who also teaches at The Academy of Aerospace and Engineering in Windsor, brainstormed on how to get their team out of the rut. Coach Gales thought back to his days as a young athlete at a sports camp, when he learned a Japanese word that would resonate on him for the rest of his life: "Kaizen" (A business philosophy of continuous improvement of working practices, personal efficiency, etc.).
That day, the coaches assigned everyone on the team a homework assignment, as classes were out of session until the end of the month. Each wrestler had to define the word "kaizen" and explain how they would apply it to their life, academics, and wrestling.
Coach Gales went on to say, "Everybody kind of bought in, and we knew that week there was a huge shift in the mindset of the team. We ended up two weeks later having the best performance of the year where we went 3-1 in a dual tournament. We had a more positive ring to the season for the rest of the year."
This season the Bantams have adopted "kaizen" as their team motto, even printing it on the back of team shirts. "Everyone knows what it means. Everybody knows how to apply it to wrestling, to life, to family, to academics, to everything. It's one thing to say it, but it's another thing to live it, so we try to make sure we strive for perfection and improve in every facet of life", said Gales.
For a team that started last season 0-8 in duals competition to finish the season at 7-11, it is clear that Coach Gales has helped the team make tremendous strides. Andrew McCahill, the team's lone senior this winter, stated that he will take "kaizen" with him throughout his life. Despite an 0-2 duals record in Trinity's fall semester, Gales sees plenty of bright spots but also places to improve.
Junior heavyweight Lucian Cascino is due to return in January after a leg injury. He has been a key wrestler for the Bantams the past two seasons, winning two NCAA Regional matches last year while hurt. Gales feels 145-pound sophomore Ian Moritz, who missed all of last season with an injury, will turn heads in the 149-pound weight class as the year progresses.
"Not many teams know about Ian Moritz, and he can compete like crazy. I think he will do well for us down the stretch", said Gales.
Sophomore Ian Steckel, joined the team this year and become one of Trinity's few dual-sport athletes. Steckel displays immense athleticism on the baseball field and he has been improving at a rapid rate as he polishes up his wrestling skills.
Oklahoma State High School Champion Grant Sorensen has already made a mark on the mat for Trinity in his short tenure as a Bantam. The 149-pound sophomore was voted captain by his teammates and the coaches stood by the team's overwhelming decision. Coach Gales described Sorensen as an atypical captain in that he goes about his business unostentatiously, but commands the room when he speaks his mind.
"We knew he would be the type of person to turn the program around during his recruitment," remarked Gales. Despite Hartford's distance from Sorensen's hometown of Moore, Okla., and the Bantams were able to land the sophomore.
"We have the numbers and now we just have to work on our quality a little bit. I think that's probably the biggest thing needed for us to move forward as a program," said Sorensen.
Sorenson maintains a disciplined and orderly lifestyle, but is also a real joker deep down and obviously a team favorite. Unique in many way, Sorensen can ride a unicycle, has risen the level of Eagle Scout, and volunteers at a local food bank and at the humane society through his church.
Expect the Bantams to make a big push going forward this season, as Gales saw the team's new mindset shine through when the Bantams nearly defeated Williams College just a year removed from that 53-point shutout a year ago. The Bantams won five of 10 bouts against the Ephs, including a 15-1 romp by sophomore Jack Reilly at 157 pounds against an opponent ranked among the top six in the New England Wrestling Association, in a 26-20 setback. Trinity will compete next in the Scott Viera Invitational at Roger Williams University on January 7…Kaizen!
written by Nicholas DiBenedetto '17