Men’s Wrestling Growing Pains

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After an uncharacteristic 2013-2014 season, a year where team size and other issues ended the Cougar’s streak of 14 consecutive league titles, this year’s Albany High School Men’s Wrestling Team looks to build off of the strong individual seasons that many had last year.

Freshman Malcolm Dawkins stares down his opponent.

Freshman Malcolm Dawkins stares down his opponent.

The obvious concern for this season is once again with team size. “The team is bigger than it was last year, but it is still less than teams from the past. The main thing, however, is that we are growing again as a team,” said varsity coach Tyrone Rose, who is heading into his second year in charge of the program.

Rose added: “You always want numbers for depth. With a smaller team, we can’t fill up a full roster when it comes to duals, making it harder to win as a team. With less people on the roster, we are also left with less people to push each other in practice to get them better.”

Although these problems exist, it is not keeping the Cougars from keeping a positive outlook. Senior Richard Bayne commented, “My goals for this season are to win an individual league title and to do my best to lead the team to a league title. I think we have the right group to make this possible regardless of how many people we have.”

This season has seen an increase in new wrestlers for the Cougars, leading to large gaps in skill. This led Rose Rose to rethink practice schedules. “I try my best to challenge the more experienced kids while at the same time letting the less experienced grow at their own pace. I think this is working as there has already been lots of improvement on both sides.”

Rose noted that Bayne along with fellow senior Garon Pelesauma and junior Takuma Okamoto have been valuable role models.

Junior Takuma Okamoto cross faces an unlucky opponent.

Junior Takuma Okamoto cross faces an unlucky opponent.

“With the new kids, we just try to get them to push their limits in practice to get them to learn what they are capable of. This team is a group of hard workers who are willing to make sacrifices to get themselves better,” Bayne commented.

The number of wrestlers on the team hasn’t been the only thing to change from last season. “I wanted to try different tournaments this year to keep things fresh and different for the guys that have been on the team. I also wanted to implement more strength training and we can do that now because of our new strength and conditioning coach, Bruce Pruiett,” Rose said.

“The strength and conditioning program has been great. I definitely feel like it has given us an edge we never had before, and I have personally really benefited from this,” said Bayne, who attended all of the pre-season workout sessions with coach Pruiett.

The Cougars hosted their first home dual meet on Thursday, December 4 against Redwood High School. After forfeiting the first three matches the Cougars battled their way to a 39-21 loss. Freshman Erik Nelson (126) started the night off with a pin in 5:05, Okamoto (138) went on to receive a minor decision, 13-6, and Pelesauma( 170) finished the night off with a 1:50 pin. Although the score did not display it, the Cougars showed a lot of promise for the long road ahead, as the score of the meet without forfeits was 21-15 Redwood, putting the Cougars one pin away from tying the dual.

Two days later the Cougars headed to Redwood High School for the Faultline Duals Tournament. Going into their first dual against Northgate High, the Cougars were spotting 36 points due to forfeits and it was reflected in the score as they suffered a 64-18 loss to open the tournament. It wasn’t all bad, as they started the dual out in style with three straight pins by Nelson (120) in 3:26, junior Malik Brown (126) in :22, and Okamoto (132), who swiftly recorded his pin in just 10 seconds. The rest of the dual went downhill, however, as the lack of a veteran presence in the mid-to upper-weight classes showed as the Cougars got shut out the rest of the way.

Takuma Okamoto gets a double leg on his way to a 10-second pin against Northgate.

Takuma Okamoto gets a double leg on his way to a 10-second pin against Northgate.

Forfeits would again plague the Cougars against Stuart Hall as they gave away 18 points in a 41-30 loss. Once again Nelson (120), Okamoto (126) and Brown (132) recorded three consecutive pins to start the dual at :37, 1:26 and 1:40 respectively. Bayne (160) recorded his first victory of the year with a 3:51 pin.

After their 0-2 record placed them into the Bronze division, the Cougars were optimistic going up against teams that had the same record.

The Cougars met their former BSAL rival St. Patrick-St. Vincent High School in their third dual of the day. The Bruins were in a similar position as they only had four wrestlers in their lineup. With the Cougars only needing one victory, Bayne (152) started things off with a pin in 44 seconds to secure the Cougars first dual meet victory of the year. The final score was 36-24.

After a very long layover, the Cougars went up against Casa Grande High School. Both teams had their share of forfeits, leaving the Cougars only down by six to start the dual. Bayne (152) recorded his third pin of the day in 1:39. Nelson (120) and Okamoto (126) ended the dual with back-to-back pins in 3:49 and 1:17, respectively. Despite the solid wrestling, the one extra forfeit came to hurt the Cougars as they lost by one pin 36-30.

In their final dual, the Cougars went up against Archbishop Riordan High School. Forfeits were again the problem as they went on to lose 58-18. Bayne (152) started things off with a pin in 2:28. Okamoto (126) recorded a 19 second pin and Brown (132) ended the night with a 4:41 pin.

Although the team is young, and the results may not be there yet, the team shows a lot of promise. With over a month before league duals start, there is more than enough time for the team to build off their current success as well as improve upon their faults. Given enough time the current team could become a strong dual team for this year and years to come.