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The Pirate wrestling team traveled to Bayfield last Saturday, Dec. 7, to compete in their first meet of the season against wrestlers from Bayfield, Ignacio and Dove Creek.
In Bayfield, the team won two of three duals, beating Bayfield and Dove Creek. The Pirates lost the third dual to Ignacio. Both the Pirates and Ignacio won four matches each during the third dual, but Ignacio came out on top after scoring more bonus points, including points scored as the result of Pagosa forfeits at certain weights. Though important, the focus wasn’t on team scores last weekend. Instead, the primary focus was on developing individual skills and winning matches.
Janowsky told The SUN that he ended up taking eight varsity wrestlers to Bayfield last weekend, fewer than anticipated, due to injuries and other conflicts. At the meet, the wrestlers filled eight out of 14 weight classes and had to forfeit the remaining six including 132, 182 and 220 pounds and the three lowest weights (106, 113 and 120).
The lineup Saturday included senior Creede Wylie at 285, senior Dylan Read at 126, senior Micheal Mills at 138, junior David McRee at 171, junior Alonso Hernandez at 195, junior Chris Archuleta at 145, junior Austin Courtney at 152 and junior JC Parsons at 160. Janowsky explained that some good competitors missing from the lineup Saturday could have made a difference in the number of matches the Pirates won. Janowsky expects to be able to fill all weight classes at meets by January.
The large number of juniors competing at the varsity level means the team is experiencing some growing pains as those competitors learn and grow into new leadership roles both as teammates and athletes.
“It takes a while for newly-developed physicality to sink in for those guys,” said Janowsky.
Out of 22 individual matches on Saturday, Pagosa won 15 and lost seven with three wrestlers — McRee, Hernandez and Wylie — going undefeated.
“Fifteen out of twenty-two is pretty good, considering it’s early in the season. It’s a decent start, especially considering some unexpected hangups this week,” said Janowsky.
Janowsky and assistant coaches Michael Martinez and Keith Candelaria believe the Pirates could have won a higher percentage of matches than they did with added focus and discipline. Although technical mistakes account for some of the individual losses, match preparation and the mental focus and discipline that guides performance seemed to be the real struggle for the Pirates on Saturday.
“They didn’t wrestle with the intensity they wrestle each other with at practice, or with the intensity they wrestled with at preseason scrimmages,” said Janowsky, explaining that for some competitors this lack of focus could be the result of a struggle with first-match confidence. Regardless, Janowsky was somewhat surprised with the hesitation of the wrestlers and their struggles with their mental game.
“They’re good, strong wrestlers that know their stuff,” said Janowsky. “We have a good team with the physical maturity, strength and knowhow to wrestle, but a lot of that developed after the end of last season. Some of the wrestlers need to prove to themselves that they’re as good as we (the coaches) think they are.”
Janowsky continued to discuss the struggle to focus and therefore win matches by explaining how not many of the varsity wrestlers, with the exception of Wylie and McRee, have experienced a large amount of success in competition to date. In order to be successful as individual athletes, these wrestlers will have to cast off lingering doubts they may have about their ability to compete, instead focusing on the fundamentals of good wrestling.
“They need to not be distracted by the things that are uncertain,” said Janowsky. “if they stick to what they practice and know, they’ll wrestle well.”
The Pirates’ next chance to demonstrate their mental toughness will be this coming weekend at the Columbine Invitational in Littleton. Competition begins on Saturday at 8:30 a.m. and Pirate wrestlers will compete individually in double elimination weight brackets against wrestlers from 16 5A, 4A and 3A schools.