Corder kept Tigers working toward crown
Charles Prince, Sports Editor
New Year's Day. A time for relaxation and a time to enjoy a day off from work. A time to catch some college football on the tube. A time of leisure and celebration for some, but another day of hard work for those in pursuit of a championship.
It's 12:30 p.m. on New Year's Day 2005 and the Hartselle High wrestling team is inside the Bob Sittason Athletic Center finishing up a two-and-half-hour workout. The Tigers are skipping rope to the driving beat of AC/DC's "Back in Black." The music propelling the Tigers to maintain the proper pace to keep working their cardiovascular system. The rope jumping comes after more than two hours of work on the mat, practicing takedowns, working on moves and perfecting escapes.
The day is not out of the ordinary for the Hartselle squad hoping to finish their season with a state championship. Remembering the heart-breakingly close finish of 2004 helped to keep the 2005 squad working toward improvement, which could be the difference in capturing a state title and finishing a disappointing second as they had a year earlier.
The senior-dominated Tigers had an advantage this season over their competition. Not only was their maturity a key, but mat experience was just as important to their success, according to head coach Keith Corder.
"My guys had been around so long, I didn't have to spend time explaining moves and teaching the right techniques," Corder said. "We could get practice going right away and keep up the intensity."
Squeezing out every possible second of practice time gave the Tigers an edge. It allowed them to stay sharp all season long and avoid any major letdowns.
This team was so focused on their goal, bad practices were a rarity. They came to practice ready to work and ready to improve each and every day. The seniors helped Corder make sure the whole team trained as hard as humanly possible.
"We had so many seniors, it forced the young kids into practicing hard," Corder said. "If I turned my back and didn't see that a young guy was dogging it, a senior would get on him to pick up the pace and practice the right way. The seniors really pushed everyone to work toward our goal."
Corder praised the team's focus and work ethic in other areas as well.
"Everyone came in with their weight under control all season long," Corder said. "Everyone was always on time. It just what a coach wants. I just didn't have any problems with them."
Corder was impressed with his team's ability to maintain their focus, citing the seniors for keeping his squad "on track" and "headed in the right direction all year long."
The focus combined with the Tigers hard work led to the year's best practices the week leading up to the state championships. Even before the championships were over, everyone knew who the state's best team was-the Hartselle Tigers.
Yes, the 2005 Hartselle Tiger wrestling team finished the job, stayed focused and captured the state title they had just missed out on a season before.
Years from now, a look back at the record book will show Hartselle High as the 2005 Class 5A state wrestling champions. However, the title won't tell you how much character these Tigers have. If you saw them wrestle, you learned all you needed to know about them.
Because of Corder's coaching and the team's burning desire to succeed, these Tigers proved themselves to be gutsy hard-working warriors on the mat.