By becoming the new head coach for the Langley High wrestling team last August, Jeff Mye, who had spent most of his life in western New York, accepted a positive type of challenge that came with the position - the fact that he was taking over a program that had known outstanding success over the previous decade.
Mye, a lifelong enthusiast of the sport, realized that the Langley High wrestling bar was, indeed, pretty high and that at least maintaining that measure of consistent winning was an expectation that came with his new job title.
"There is the added pressure [as the first year head coach] that Langley has won 10 [Liberty] District titles in a row," said Mye recently, with a chuckle.
But, with the regular season just completed this week and the postseason ready to begin this weekend with the district championships, Mye has impressively directed the Saxons to another stellar season. The Saxons have won this winter despite having to deal with the natural change that occurs for a team when it makes the transition of having a new head coach. On top of that, injuries, illnesses and other scenarios have resulted in the Langley varsity experiencing a challenging season in which it has never even once had the same set line-up at any one time this winter.
"We've had 30 different kids in the varsity line-up," said Mye, quite amazed by how the season has evolved. "It's been pretty hectic but the team has been pretty good [in handling] it. We haven't had the same line-up all year long."
Mye, the program's third head coach in three years, has gotten his first taste of Northern Region wrestling this winter. Prior to coming to Fairfax County before the start of this school year, Mye spent the last four years as an assistant wrestling coach at Niagara Community College in Western New York. Prior to that, he served as an assistant at Attica High School in the same area of the state.
The team participates in districts this Friday and Saturday at McLean High School.
"I'm nervous," he admits. "We haven't had the same line-up in there."
YES, IT HAS BEEN a rocky first season ride for the new coach and his squad in terms of different personnel being used to fill out the 14 different weight classes. Nevertheless, a number of Saxons have put together marvelous seasons. Those wrestlers include juniors Leland Jenkins (119 weight class) and Jay Ives (135), as well as seniors Matt Wilson (152), Griffin Dulany (171) and Elie Kawmy (189).
Kawmy has made the jump from being a 145-division wrestler a year ago to competing at 189 this year. He is, in fact, a light 189 but has more than held his own against physically bigger opponents. He was 20-6 going into this week and will likely be the top seed in his weight class at districts.
"Elie lost his father last year," said Mye, of Kawmy. "He has been battling a lot [of adversity]. He's been out there [on the mat] competing hard."
Dulany, at 171, leads the team in wins with 31 victories to just two defeats. He is looking forward to a big postseason after, a year ago, enduring a late season injury (broken nose) that prevented him from fulfilling his expectations. Mye loves the way the methodical Dulany competes in his generally low-scoring matches.
"He paces himself," said the coach. "He very rarely makes mistakes during a match. Everything is thought out. He stays within himself and knows what he can do."
Wilson, at 152, is 21-3 this season. Going into this week, the senior had 98 career wins over his four-year varsity career. He is likely to hit the 100 win mark at districts. Wilson has the sixth most wins in Langley wrestling history.
Ives and Jenkins, both 11th graders, have both been steady contributors to the team's success. Ives (23-5) goes right at opponents.
"He's a very physical wrestler with an `in your face' type of mentality," said Mye, of Ives. "He's just the opposite of [teammate] Leland [Jenkins], who is more of a slick kind of guy [on the mat]."
Jenkins carries a 27-8 record on the season.
"He's very consistent and doesn't make a lot of mistakes," said Mye, of Jenkins. "He's one of the [few] guys who has consistently been in the line-up."
LANGLEY was scheduled to conclude the regular season earlier this week on Monday with a dual meet match versus visiting McLean High.