The Pirate wrestling team held its first practice Nov. 9, and with many athletes leaving town during an extended Thanksgiving break, the full squad has little time to prepare for the season opener on Dec. 1.
One thing coach Dan Janowsky does have is numbers. There are more than 40 athletes in the wrestling room at present, with the coach expecting the number to stabilize in the mid-30s.
“We’re proud of the numbers,” said Janowsky, “because high school sports, in general, are losing participants.”
When the wrestlers reported for the first practices, the coach saw some familiar, and reassuring faces.
Four experienced seniors return from a team that lost only two veterans to graduation last year. Chase Purcell, Keith Archuleta and state qualifiers Dalton Gregory and Cody Snow are back for a final season.
Two other state qualifiers return as members of the junior class: Creede Wylie (who qualified as a freshman) and Morgan Shelton. Both were leveled by injury last year.
“We also have juniors who fared well when they got into the lineup last year,” said the coach. The group includes Aaron Yazzie, Sam White, Jeremiah Miller, Dean Scott and Dylan Lindberg.
Last season, a number of youngsters were hurried into competition. While the experience might not have been successful when it occurred, the rewards of the test could come into play this year.
“They were forced into varsity action at a young age,” said Janowsky. “They put in a lot of work, and being there at that early age didn’t affect their enthusiasm.”
Back as sophomores, with experience under their belts, are Alonzo Hernandez, Chase Patane, David McRee, J.C. Parsons, Chris Archuleta and Weldon Hughes.
At least 10 freshmen turned out on Nov. 9.
“So far,” said Janowsky, “the young guys are really good students, and good kids. Off the mat, and in the practice room, they are attentive and they work hard. They show up every day and they get to work.”
At this juncture, Janowsky can say of his team that, “They’ve been out there. We only lost two guys off our regional tournament team. We’re much stronger this year because of the additional maturity and the work we’ve been doing. I know we’ll have a competitive team this year — noticeably better. But, we’re in a tough spot when we look at the league and at the region.”
Despite the fact that Intermountain League teams and teams in the region, present some formidable obstacles, Janowsky is optimistic when he assesses the chances the team will have a successful year.
“I don’t see any one-sided scores like last season,” said the coach. “We’ll be competitive.”
The team travels to Farmington on Dec. 1 to compete in a dual meet tournament in the Scorpions’ house.