MAHOMET — Imagine going to wrestling practice every single day knowing that your partner was going to knock you down over and over again. That's what life was like for Seth Buchanan last season.
As a sophomore, Buchanan learned under 285-pound David Griffet. Griffet beat Buchanan each and every day and went on to finish second in the state in Class 2A. But the senior graduated, and it's Buchanan's time to shine.
"He didn't get a lot of playing time, but we put him in two varsity tournaments last year and he placed in both," Mahomet-Seymour wrestling coach Rob Ledin said. "We feel really good about where Seth is at."
Buchanan has gotten off to a hot start for the Bulldogs as his record is an unblemished 6-0. Buchanan is quick to attribute the undefeated start to the sessions with Griffet.
"He really helped me," Buchanan said. "Without a good wrestling partner, you can't really go far. David really taught me how to stay aggressive in a match and how to move your weight around. If I had bad technique, he'd destroy me every time."
Five of Buchanan's six wins have come via a fall. Buchanan was awarded one win because of a forfeit by Pekin. But Buchanan still believes he has a ways to go before he can start to feel good about his performance.
"Looking back, I don't see myself as an undefeated wrestler," Buchanan said. "I just haven't met someone yet in my five matches that will really knock me down and figure out where I'm at.
"At the very beginning of the season, I was very concerned. But you still need to push yourself, no matter what your record looks like. It puts my mind at ease because I have more confidence that I can hang with the tougher guys."
Buchanan got into wrestling in seventh grade because he coincidentally noticed that the good linemen in football happened to be wrestlers.
Wrestling has helped Buchanan on the football field and vice versa. Buchanan played a ton on the defensive line this year for the Bulldogs, racking up 12 tackles.
"When I was in football and I was going against guys I knew were wrestlers, I always saw that they had crazy cardio and were able to move their bodies and use your weight against your opponent on the field," Buchanan said. "I really wanted to do that."
Success on the gridiron doesn't immediately translate to success on the mat. But Buchanan is focused on becoming a big-time contributor in multiple sports.
"I like the aspect about how in wrestling the only person you can blame is yourself," Buchanan said. "If something goes wrong, you know what happened. In football, a million things could go wrong and you never know what went wrong. I like wrestling because of that."
Wrestling in the 285-pound weight class, Buchanan is a big dude, and he's strong as an ox.
But Buchanan had to drop 22 pounds in preparation for wrestling season. Thanks to plenty of conditioning, Buchanan was able to shred the extra weight.
"Just a lot of running," Buchanan said with a chuckle. "Running in your off time. Before school, I was running. Running after practice, too. In the height of it, we would run in the mornings for wrestling as a team, and then after wrestling practice, I would run for about 20 minutes. We were trying to do a slow loss so I didn't lose too much muscle mass."
Buchanan is aiming to follow Griffet's path by qualifying for state.
Then, next year, the goal will be to place at state in his final season.
Ledin's steady hand has helped Buchanan become a seasoned grappler.
"He definitely helped in my high school years, teaching me some new techniques," Buchanan said. "His teaching style is to teach everyone in the room a whole bunch of moves. I have some moves that I wouldn't have thought about because of him."
Griffet, David Spencer and Ben Stahl have moved on to bigger and better things. Those three were state qualifiers last year for the Bulldogs.
Now, Buchanan has picked up the mantle as the leader. Maybe not always with his words, but with his solid work ethic and drive for success.
"I think the team is much closer than it has been before," Buchanan said. "Before, it's been pretty close, but outside of practice, we wouldn't do much together. This year, we are together outside of practices and duals. Just building up that team chemistry that's kind of in short supply in wrestling because mostly it's a one-on-one.
"It's really helped us this year, going against some teams, considering our record. With like only one or two senior varsity starters, it's hard to get a whole lot of experience this year. So, we're making up for that by working really hard and pushing ourselves in the practice room."