MORGANTOWN — Among the many attributes needed to be a successful wrestler, or just an athlete in general, the most important may be mental toughness and the drive to improve yourself. Morgantown High wrestling coach Joe Abu believes junior Alex Shriver has all that and can lead himself and his team to great heights.
Abu is only in his second year as the Mohigans’ head mat man, but has seen big strides in Shriver’s performance since last year and knows he has the tools to excel even further following his quarterfinals finish at the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference (OVAC) tournament, on Jan. 20.
“Last year, he ended up third in our region and really exceeded expectations, so we have goals set for him this year to improve on that,” Abu said. “He’s been wrestling since middle school, so he has the experience and he’s just a naturally gifted athlete. Naturally strong and quick and has the athleticism that you just can’t coach.”
Along with Shriver’s natural abilities, Abu praised him for his mental approach to the sport and his work ethic.
“This year, he’s been working even harder, and I just see more drive and more maturity on his part,” Abu said. “He’s very well-aware of his strengths and his weaknesses, which is extremely important for a wrestler.”
Part of that mature approach and awareness starts well before Shriver even steps on the mat. As an all-state academic, Shriver said that without school, there would be no wrestling.
“School is the No. 1 priority at my house,” he said. “If I don’t keep my grades up, I can’t wrestle, so it’s very important to stay on top of my work.”
Shriver said that once he’s on the mat, his coaches help him to achieve his own goals of placing in the state tournament this year.
“If coach Abu feels I haven’t been giving my all during practice, he’ll take me aside and make sure I push myself more,” Shriver said. “Coach Z (Jim Zaveski) often pulls me to the side and gives me a motivational speech. I’m sure without the two of them I wouldn’t be anywhere close to as good as I am now.”
Abu talked about those moments when he’s had a one-on-one with Shriver, and ultimately his purpose for motivating him.
“He’s become more of a team leader this year,” Abu said. “And I’ve talked to him a little more this year about developing into that role. More so, because the younger guys look up to him and I want him to lead by example, especially going into next year as a senior. He’s more than capable of being that guy everyone looks up to.”
As for Shriver, he said he is more than ready for the challenge.
“I’m very excited to lead the team my senior year,” he said. “I hope that I can be a good example and that I can push my teammates to achieve their full potential.”
While that is still a year away, Abu, Shriver and the Mohigans have their sights set on the more the immediate future with the Class AAA Region 1 tournament on Feb. 10 and the state tournament in Huntington that runs Feb. 22-24.