Every day of practice mattered to Ryan Marlett last season.
Chris Morehouse made sure of it.
As close friends and members of the La Salle-Peru wrestling team, the now seniors battled last winter in an attempt to become the 182-pound starter in the Cavaliers’ varsity lineup.
After Marlett started last season at the weight, Morehouse took over the spot midseason.
It ended up sparking a weekly competition between the two, who often times had a wrestle off every Monday to see who would wrestle varsity that week.
“It was definitely tough because I knew his moves and he knew my moves,” Morehouse said. “When I would beat him, I’d love it because I’d get the spot, but it was over one of my best friends and I hated seeing him down like that. And when he beat me, I’d be down in the dumps.”
It created an icy relationship between the friends.
“We were paired up every single practice, so every day I had to be mentally ready,” Marlett said. “It was a little nerve-wracking.”
Marlett eventually won back his spot and wrestled at 182 over the final few weeks of last season.
Their season-long competition, however, benefited both.
Now at different weights this winter, the seniors have evolved into two of L-P’s most successful wrestlers.
So far this season, the 170-pound Morehouse is 16-4 heading into Saturday’s Class 2A Pontiac Regional, while the 195-pound Marlett is 27-9.
“We really like to have the weight classes decided, but in a situation like that it worked out really well,” L-P coach Matt Fletcher said. “Marlett stepped up and really wrestled like he’s capable of, while Morehouse got a taste of starting on varsity, which has benefited him a lot this year.”
It just wasn’t always easy for the two, who have been friends since middle school.
“I would say we were good friends up to our junior year, but then we kind of separated a little bit,” Marlett admitted. “This year, we’re really good friends again because there’s a weight between us and we both have a spot.”
In the offseason, Marlett hit the weight room harder and gained nearly 25 pounds, which caused him to bump up and wrestle at 195 pounds this season.
He finished second at the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference Meet on Jan. 19, and his 27 wins are the most on the team.
“It’s a lot better this year not having to worry about somebody taking your spot,” Marlett said. “There’s less to concentrate on, and now I can just concentrate on practices and tournaments instead of looking over my shoulder and worrying about my spot.”
Morehouse has also enjoyed a breakout varsity season at two different weights.
Originally slated to wrestle at 182 pounds, he was able to cut enough weight to wrestle at 170 pounds after an opening was created midseason.
So far this winter, Morehouse won the 182-pound weight class at the Springfield Invitational and also finished second at 170 at the NIB 12 Conference Meet.
“I lacked in the beginning and wasn’t as good as I could be,” Morehouse admitted. “But I’ve just kept getting better and better. I think I lost some strength when I cut weight, but my endurance is better and I worked hard in the offseason. I’ve stayed out of trouble and kept my grades up because I love this sport. I absolutely love it.”
Especially now that Morehouse and Marlett are no longer battling each other.
“They are both having solid seasons,” Fletcher said. “Like with any kids, there is stuff they need to work on, but just the confidence levels in those guys have changed from last year. They both are full-time starters, they both know where they fit in the team and they both have very distinct goals of getting to state. They are both really getting after it.”
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.