Wrestling: Hobart’s Scottie Sopko eyeing postseason run
By John O’Malley Post-Tribune correspondent January 19, 2013 11:14PM
Hobart sophomore Scottie Sopko is photographed during practice in Hobart, Ind. Thursday January 17, 2013. Sopko wrestles at the 170 pound weight class and holds a 28-1 record. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 21, 2013 6:59AM
Hobart’s Scottie Sopko claims his shots and escapes are his greatest strengths on the mat.
“I always feel comfortable in those two positions,’’ the Brickies’ 170-pound sophomore said.
Ranked No. 6 in the state in the latest Panko Strength and Speed rankings, Sopko has learned how to become a more effective rider this season, which has made him even more difficult to beat.
“The last 10 matches, he’s had six or seven pins,’’ Hobart coach Steve Balash said. “He’s learned how to ride people better. When he’s able to hold people down, that’s how he’s been able to get these different pin combinations.’’
While Sopko is good on his feet and adept at takedowns, Balash said those things don’t always work.
“He has to learn the other two components,’’ Balash said. “Wrestling on the bottom — he’s pretty good at getting out. Not too many guys hold him down for very long. We’re working on doing more combinations at a time — a sit-out and a switch, a sit-out and a stand up, or a sit-out and a side roll. He’s learned to ride people a lot better. I think he’s improved in that area. If you can do it, you don’t have to worry about getting a takedown again.’’
While sticking opponents isn’t really something Sopko considers a strength, it’s becoming one for him.
“I wasn’t that good at riding people last year — not at all,’’ he said. “I needed to work on that and some pinning combinations, and I’ve done that. I’m able to score more back points and get more pins now because of it. I feel more comfortable. I’m looking for more pins, so things are falling into place.’’
Sopko (28-1) avenged his only loss this season to Peru’s Kane Rockenbaugh who beat him in the third round of Mishawaka’s prestigious Al Smith Invitational.
Needing to win his next match to come back the next day, he did.
Sopko won three matches the final day, beating Rockenbaugh 9-0 for a major decision and finished 6-1 at the invite.
“The season is going good so far, but I’m not satisfied yet — not at all,’’ Sopko said. “My goal is to make it state, but I’m taking it in small steps. It’s a matter of not just wanting to do it, but doing it.
I know it’s not going to be easy, but my goal is to win it.’’
With Merrillville sophomore Bobby Steveson in Sopko’s weight class, it will definitely be an arduous task.
Sopko went 33-7 as a freshman last year and ended up No. 8 in the state at 160.
“I still have lots of work to do,’’ he said. “I’m working hard every day. I ask my coaches questions, keep working hard and believe everything they tell me, since everything they tell me is what’s best for me.’’
Even though Sopko isn’t a screamer or yeller, he’s a leader.
“He’ll come in the room, grab some of the younger kids and say: ‘You’re wrestling with me today,’ ” Balash said. “It’s his way of being a leader. He’s trying to teach these kids by sharing some of his knowledge.’’
Sopko isn’t the only leader for the Brickies, who have at least two other standouts in 138-pound Tony Vasquez (24-2) and 182-pound Tony Rodriguez (26-2).
Rodriguez is a three-time semistate qualifier, while Vasquez has qualified for semistate twice.
Rodriguez is Sopko’s drill partner. Both of them work to make each other better.
“I’m a nervous guy, but I try to talk to my teammates, encourage them and get them to believe in themselves,’’ Sopko said.
Hobart assistant coach Donnie Rogers gave Sopko sound advice.
“He told me to stop questioning my ability,’’ Sopko said. “He said your heart and determination will take care of everything. That’s 100 percent true, because on the mat, it’s just you and the other guy.
Those two things will take care of everything, so stop worrying and just go out there and do what you need to do.’’