(Le Mars, IA.) – In wrestling, if you don’t have fire inside your belly, you won’t last. For Blake Dirksen of Le Mars Community H.S., his is a firestorm.
He lives for wrestling. He loves wrestling.
Going into his junior season, Blake –the son of Brad and Megan Dirksen of Le Mars --will be taking his 33 wins as a sophomore 106-pounder and moving up to the 120-pound weight class where the Bulldog grappler has visions of a state tournament in his thoughts.
Seems like a big jump, but if you’ve seen this young man wrestle the last two years and if you’ve had the chance to talk with him, his move up is no surprise. Nor are his goals. He’s tough and determined.
Wrestling since sixth grade, Blake said that he’s glad he was introduced to the mat at an early age. “You’re continuously learning,” he said, “so the more time you’re in the sport, the more you can learn.”
As far as Blake’s concerned, his early start has paid off.
In his freshman year, he said, he came on board not expecting to make the varsity. He was 113 at the time and after considering his options, he opted to drop to 106. That turned into his varsity debut. He pulled off 25 wins that season.
That gave him impetus for the following year, one in which saw him hold on to an undefeated start for several meets. He wound up with a 3rd place finish at the district tourney, an accomplishment that’s whetted his appetite for even higher goals.
Wrestling is a year long proposition. It’s 12 months -- meaning weight room, strength building sessions, long-distance running for endurance, and wrestling camps along with being at his school’s scheduled open mat. No time off here.
During the off-season, Blake can be found at Morningside College, where he enrolled in that school’s Wrestling Academy and is in attendance four days a week. He strength trains four days each week throughout the off-season. Once school begins in the fall, Blake is out for cross-country. Throughout, he wrestles no less than twice a week.
All of this is essential, the purpose of which is to sharpen his skills set.
“Watching a match, fans will see a pin take place and cheer, but there’s so much that goes into that. I can’t tell you how many times I practice one move, going at it from different angles and under any number of possible circumstances,” Blake explained. “In practice, I’ll drill a move over and over again, taking into consideration the variables that come up and the subsequent counters you have to know.”
Even then, he said, that may not be enough.
“In wrestling, you have to keep in mind that there’s always someone better. Talk to champion wrestlers and they’ll tell you that. So, there’s times in a match you come up against a move that catches you off-guard or you hadn’t experienced previously. That’s when it’s back to the practice mat to work on countering the move you faced,” Blake said.
He paused a few seconds and then recalled a match he lost.
“I remember one particular match in which I got pinned. When I got home, my Dad and I talked about it and then we worked on a counter to the move that had been put on me. We did that right on our living room floor. I never forgot, and I’ve even used that move in matches later.”
Going from 106 to 120, he said, is only different in that you’re wrestling at another weight. “Every weight class is competitive. As for me, going to 120, I’m excited. In preparation for it, I’ve worked a lot of increasing my strength.” Consequently, he said, “I’ve gotten stronger and bigger. Along with that, I’ve worked hard on my techniques and will be more aggressive on the mat.”
The latter, incidentally, is a balancing act – especially for someone like Blake.
“I’ve also worked on relaxing before going out on to the mat. My tendency in the past was to become very tense, which didn’t help me when it came to executing the moves I needed to make. So, I have worked to change my approach. In other words, think, then react.”
No question about it. Blake has worked on being more positive with himself. Added to his inner fire, this young man is definitely someone to watch. He’s good, and he’s going to show his stuff this season.