The Pagosa Pirate wrestling team will compete at its first meet of the season this Saturday, Dec. 7, at Bayfield. Beginning at 9:30 a.m., Pagosa athletes will battle wrestlers from Bayfield, Ignacio and Dove Creek in three dual matches.
Participating in two scrimmages last month alerted the team members to strengths, as well as to skills that needed work before the first meet, including wrestling from non-neutral positions and achieving reversals. Coach Dan Janowsky, along with assistant coaches Michael Martinez and Keith Candelaria, has been working with the wrestlers to improve these skills at practice. Improvement will be showcased at the match Saturday.
In anticipation of the Pirates’ first official match of the year, Janowsky discussed the importance of leadership on the team, explaining that seniors competing at the varsity level will perform leadership roles.
“You always want to develop leadership in those guys, so you can get them out in front,” said Janowsky.
Senior leadership includes 285-pound heavyweight Creede Wylie, a two-time state qualifier and the only senior with state tournament experience. Other senior leaders include Micheal Mills, who will start the season at 132 or 138, Dylan Read at 126, and Tim Shepherdson at 145. Two other important seniors are Carter Walsh at 220 and Aaron Yazzie at 152, who will not wrestle on Saturday due to illness and injury respectively. Yazzie’s injury will likely keep him from competing until January.
In addition to the group of leading seniors, Janowsky explained that the junior class also has a strong core of leaders this year. This group includes the only other Pirate wrestler with state tournament experience, David McRee, who will open the season wrestling at 170 pounds. Other juniors to watch include Chris Archuleta at 138 pounds (who took fourth at regionals last year) and Alonso Hernandez at 195, who took fifth in the region. Another junior competitor to watch is Chase Patane at 182, who placed fourth at regionals two years ago.
These among other junior and senior varsity level competitors make up the heart of the Pagosa team early this season as wrestlers newer to the sport continue to develop and improve their skills. Janowsky explained that he will wrestle younger competitors at lower weights at the junior varsity level during the early part of the season.
“I like to develop kids with patience and not rush them into situations they aren’t prepared for,” said Janowsky.
As a result, the team will not start off the first match at full strength, likely filling nine or 10 weight classes out of 14 this weekend. Janowsky explained that he may wait until another match to wrestle anyone in the 106, 112 and 120 pound weight classes in addition to the 220 pound weight class usually filled by Walsh. Regardless, coaches expect good wrestling out of sophomores, juniors and seniors competing at the varsity level. This strategy may or may not be sufficient for the team to win dual matches, but Janowsky explained that winning duals isn’t necessarily the goal this early in a long season.
“The goal right now is to develop individuals and the focus is on individual matches rather than team scores,” said Janowsky. “So long as we’re making progress and individuals are making corrections, we know we’re on the right track for where we want to be by the end of the season.”
As an amendment to the information presented in the wrestling article last week:
• The best Pirate wrestling finish as a team at the state tournament in the past decade was sixth. Over that same time period, the Pirate wrestling program has had numerous outstanding individual wrestlers, including two competitors who were state champions and recruited to wrestle in top NCAA programs.