Orestimba wrestlers have strength in numbers this season.
One year after fielding a roster of 15 athletes, head coach Sergio Mar said, the numbers rose to 26 this season.
“That has been the most I have had in five seasons as head coach,” Mar told Mattos Newspapers.
Mar said the roster includes defending Southern League champions Maciel Martinez and Gerardo Torres, but that over half are new to the sport.
He attributes the growth - particularly among freshmen and sophomore ranks - to the recruiting work of Caleb Wilkinson, a junior varsity football coach who encouraged his players to give wrestling a try. Wilkinson was a league champion wrestler during his own years at Orestimba.
Mar is looking for continued improvement from those young wrestlers - gains which Mar said have already been evident during the early weeks of practice and bode well for future seasons.
“There are a lot of kids I have seen who have really surprised me and improved just within a few weeks,” he commented. “When I see that, I can’t wait to see what that wrestler is going to do next year and the year after.”
One benefit of a larger team is that wrestlers can rotate through a number of opponents in practice sessions rather than repeatedly going up against the same foe, Mar explained.
And, he said, the situation breeds competition for varsity slots in dual meets.....which results in wrestlers pushing one another to improve.
“The ones on the bottom tend to get better. If the top guy isn’t pushing himself, they are going to close the gap. They are always getting better,” Mar told Mattos Newspapers.
Many wrestlers will get most of their matches in a tournament setting, he noted. Not everybody gets to wrestle in dual formats with their 14 weight classes.
There may be some weight classes which Orestimba cannot fill despite its numbers, and opponents may have some classes which they cannot fill - which effectively limits the opportunities to compete in the dual settings.
Options do exist for wrestlers who find themselves in a crowded weight class, Mar said. They may challenge other wrestlers for the varsity slot at a given weight class, or if close enough in weight may try to move up or down a class.
A summer program served to introduce many prospective wrestlers to the sport, Mar told Mattos Newspapers. Some found that wrestling was not to their liking, he said, but the majority turned out for the team.
Off the mat, Mar commented, the wrestling coaches stress academics first and foremost.
Wrestling is not a sport for everybody, Mar acknowledged, as the demanding sport tests the limits of athletes. But the sport also fosters a close-knit, supportive team atmosphere, he noted.
“You can teach the technique but you can’t teach grit and having a little more heart. Some kids just have a little more than others,” Mar reflected. “It is a tough sport. Hopefully some of that translates into the real world.....everything isn’t easy.”