HUBBARD — Like many sports, wrestling requires mental toughness, tact, physical strength and grit.
For Hubbard, most of that has been developed at the old gymnasium that was once part of the original Roosevelt School. Light beams through the windows of the facility, which was built in the late 1930s, and certainly doesn’t feel like it has air conditioning. Wooden bleachers from a distant past are surrounded by workout equipment, and mats cover the aged hardwood floor.
But for the Eagles, that’s the type of environment they enjoy — and one they’ve thrived in. Boasting one of its better squads in recent memory, Hubbard won the Northeast-8 Conference for the first time in program history earlier this season, and is now eyeing a potential EOWL Division II title for the first time in 30 years.
Similar to track or golf, wrestling is an individual sport, but it’s one that requires a lot of buy-in, knowing there are bigger prizes as a team.
Hubbard coach Ralph Streb sees a team that’s competing at its best this season.
“We came back from holiday break, and I told the kids that they’ve turned Hubbard wrestling from an individual sport to a team sport,” Streb said. “We’re (16-3), we’ve lost to some big schools. We lost to St. Ed’s and Medina Buckeye — those are two of our three losses, (which are) two of the number one teams in the state of Ohio. That makes me feel good.
“I can tell you, I’ll put my team up against anybody, we’re not afraid of nobody. Whether we get beat or we win, I’m not afraid of anybody, and this is the first year I can actually say that and it’s good to be able to say that. I have a really good group of kids — male and female. They all work hard. They’re all good drill partners with each other. Like the old saying goes, iron sharpens iron. They make each other better.”
Senior Nick Bowser, 285 pounds, has been one of the anchors for the Eagles, owning several school records, along with a 36-4 record this season. Two of his first three high school seasons ended with some form of injury, so Bowser has had a greater appreciation for each match this season.
“My teammates, they all started really fast. They had a good showing in our first tournament of the season. I started pretty slow at 3-2 which is the worst start I’ve had in my high school career, but we got right back in the room and I picked it right back up. I really haven’t missed a beat since,” Bowser said. “Wrestling with a team has always been fun for me. But now that we have a team that actually really competes with the better teams in the area, it’s a lot more fun. Then to cheer on people that you’ve been wrestling with in the room with and banging heads, it’s a lot more fun now that you can actually win as a team.
“You get a guy who’s wrestling a dude that’s a top-ranked wrestler in the state, and even if he gets a takedown, it gets everybody fired up (and) ready for their matches and it really sets a tone.”
Fellow senior Noah Adamson, who owns over 100 career wins himself, wrestles in the 138-pound weight class and boasts a 28-6 record.
Setting the standard is key.
“I’m being a leader. You kind of have to push yourself more and (you) have to work hard — got to tell other kids to stop messing around, get back to work. We push our partners a lot in practice. I don’t let it be easy on one another,” Adamson said. “Don’t fear losing, you have nothing to lose, just go out and wrestle and have fun. At first, we were slow, but as we won all of these team matches and tournaments, we started to have more fun. We got in rhythm, and now we’re soaring.
“I take great pride in it. Before these years, you’d go to these tournaments and no one would know who Hubbard was. This year, we go there, and everyone fears us. They ask, who’s this guy? What is his weight class? He’s good. I’m proud of wrestling in this area. This area has some of the toughest in Ohio. You have to be very talented to compete at a high level in (the Mahoning Valley).”
More and more schools have added girls wrestling over the last several years, and junior Emily Flynn, in the 138-pound weight class, is among those excelling in a traditionally male-dominated sport. With a 24-4 record, she’s only ten wins away from 100 career wins herself.
“It’s really exciting, and I’m really stressed out about it because I really want to get to that 100 (mark), especially since we’re having such a good season and everyone else is having such a good season this year. I kind of want to set myself apart from everyone else too,” Flynn said. “Just everyone overall is very good and we balance each other out very well, and we just have great team energy this year.
“Since (girls wrestling) is growing so much, I just want to prove I’m as good as I am even though there’s more people because anyone can be good when there’s 100 girls. But now there’s 2000 girls — I just want to prove that I’m as good as I was.”
Flynn’s older sister, Shirley, graduated in 2015 and was the first girls wrestler in Hubbard school history.
“All my siblings wrestled for Hubbard. I think it’s nice since I’m the last sibling and we’re doing so good, and (I hope) it ends with a bang,” Flynn said. “When she wrestled, she had to go to boys states and she only wrestled with the boys. Now I do my own thing, even though I’m still a part of the team, but I’m off on my own doing my own thing. I’m just happy that I get to do what she did and carry it on.”