The funk odor penetrates the nostrils immediately after the door opens into this windowless room, full of mats at Ellet High School.
Whistles and instructions bounce off the walls.
The Ellet wrestling team is hard at work.
Coach Mark Hayhurst Jr. and his staff are preparing the team inside a second-floor room at the Akron high school.
Hayhurst, 24, is in his first year as a head coach at his alma mater after serving as an assistant for three seasons and as the head coach at Hyre Middle School for two seasons.
His objective: to bring intensity and excitement back to Ellet wrestling.
“It has been down the last couple of years,” Hayhurst said. “And I am partially to blame for that because I was here, but now that I feel in control of all aspects, how we do falls completely on me.
“I am here to make these kids better. They have to want to be here, and I know they will get better because we work them to be better.”
Kenmore and Firestone remain the perennial favorites in City Series wrestling, but Hayhurst is hoping to elevate Ellet’s position. Hayhurst said the Orangemen roster stands at 26, with nearly half of the wrestlers being freshmen.
“They know that my main goal is that when they leave at the end of the season, they are better people, they are better wrestlers and just overall better individuals because of what we do in here,” Hayhurst said. “They see my passion and the passion from the coaching staff I brought in. It is wrestling 24-7 all the time, at least in season.”
Ellet finished last season with 15 wrestlers and the season before with 11. “We finished with seven my senior year in 2006 and with five my junior year,” Hayhurst said.
His brother, senior Brian Hayhurst, is a leader on this season’s team with juniors Austin Cooper and Dakota Franklin and sophomores Jacob Ivery and Brandon Casalinuovo.
“Our coaches have taught us a lot,” Brian Hayhurst said. “If we keep working hard, then we should do well in the City Series and beyond.”
Mark Jr. is the oldest of five brothers — Justin (21), Adam (19), Brian (17) and Brandon (8) — raised by parents Mark and Donna Hayhurst.
“It’s tough coaching Brian, but it’s fun,” Mark Jr. said. “I had him when he was in eighth grade, and there is a fine line between what goes on here and what goes on at home.
“I have to remember that, yeah, you’re my brother, but you’re still held to the same standards as everybody else. The rules still pertain to you. Yeah, you’re my brother, and I’m looking out for you, but I’m also looking out for all of these kids. They are all my family, but he is my family at the end of the day. It is tough, but it is fun.”
Mark Hayhurst Jr. was an assistant to coach Justin Dimengo the previous two wrestling seasons and has been Ellet’s head freshman baseball coach since 2009.
Hayhurst, who is married to wife Kristyne (25), is a substitute teacher and a cook at Applebee’s restaurant after compiling a standout athletic career at Ellet.
He earned nine varsity letters as an Orangemen athlete, competing in football, wrestling and baseball. He posted a 106-47 record as a wrestler and was a Division I state qualifier as a senior, had a batting average of .340 in baseball and played outside linebacker in football.
“I just enjoy competing and being athletic,” said Hayhurst, a 2006 Ellet graduate and 2010 Kent State graduate.
Hayhurst has surrounded himself with assistants Andrew Brown, Logan Vance and Cody Ortolani. Each has experience as a wrestler.
“I have wrestled for about 12 years, so I already know a lot, but between Mark being the coach and all the new people he is bringing in, I have learned a lot more,” Franklin said. “The team is doing a lot better than I am used to seeing.”
Brown wrestled at Tallmadge, Lake and Cleveland State. His father, Jim Brown, is Ellet’s only state titlist wrestler, a champion in 1970 and 1971, Hayhurst said.
“We are all young where we can relate to the kids,” Hayhurst said. “I am the oldest on staff. We can still get out and roll around with them. I think being a hands-on coach is huge in wrestling, it’s not so much in football where the coaches are not going to go out and put the pads on. I can get out on the mat and say, ‘OK, this is how you can score in this position.’ I can go live with them, tone myself to their level and then just above it so that they are working harder.”
Cooper, who is getting back into shape after being diagnosed this summer with celiac disease (a gluten intolerance), has enjoyed the mentoring so far.
“They have brought a lot to the program,” Cooper said. “We have had tougher practices than I can remember having here. This is my fifth year wrestling, and they have taught me and showed me things I have never heard of in the few weeks that we have been practicing. It definitely benefits us to wrestle against them. The best challenge you can have is to wrestle a coach.”
Cooper said he has cut gluten from his diet after going through two procedures. He takes vitamins to help overcoming feeling weak and lethargic at times.
“Cooper is one of the nicest kids I have ever met,” Hayhurst said. “He is very respectful and he goes to Akron early college, so he is not in school here. He is a very smart kid and he pushes himself as hard as he can. He has some health issues that hold him back a little bit, but he doesn’t show it. He tries so hard.”
Hayhurst hopes that type of effort from every wrestler can turn Ellet into a contender.
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.