The wrestling program has been strengthened after last year’s mishap, when the team was temporarily dismantled and the program was suspended. Nye County Schools Superintendent Dale Norton listened to the coaches and gave the program a last-minute reprieve.
Muckers Coach Duffy Otteson’s main goal this season is to revitalize the Tonopah wrestling program.
“After last year, we are just trying to regroup and get interest back in the program at the high school level,” he said.
He said recruiting has been tough at the high school level.
“Recruiting wrestlers is hard because the kids in high school didn’t have a youth wrestling program. So, trying to get a kid to join something they have never done is always going to be hard,” Otteson said.
His efforts have paid off. A new season started and the team has double what they had last year with 11 athletes.
After three weeks of practice, Otteson’s team put their best foot forward to face their first contest of the season.
“The Ely Lions Wrestling Tournament was a great learning experience for all the new wrestlers. Every kid got at least three matches. Practice teaches you only so much, but real tournament matches teach you to see what each individual needs work on,” the coach said.
He said his main goal was to get the kids in wrestling shape and work on the basics.
The results have been better than expected in the first clashes of the season. Freshman Tanner Otteson won his first high school tournament at 106 pounds.
“He had a rough day at first making mistakes that an experienced wrestler should not make, but he came back and wrestled much better Saturday to win the championship match by two points,” Otteson explained.
With nine years of experience, he is one of the best assets on the team. According to Otteson, he knows a lot of wrestling moves, but still needs to improve his mental and physical strengths to contend for a state championship. At this point, he is a little behind on his strength and conditioning because he just came off a knee surgery, but he is working hard to achieve his goals.
One of the new Tonopah wrestlers, Josh Kieck, also performed well in the tournament. He took 4th place and Otteson believes he has the potential to improve. The junior has a year of wrestling from a high school in Las Vegas.
“If I can get him to excel at my type of wrestling and he gets in shape, he also will contend at the heavyweight class for a state championship,” Otteson said.
Another potential state champion is TJ Ayers, who has two years of experience and was a state qualifier during his sophomore year. He did not wrestle his junior year due to an injury to his knee.
“I see him by the end of the year competing for a state championship as long as he continues to improve his moves and defense throughout the season,” Otteson said.
Ayers wrestled hard in Ely, but made some mistakes that the coach is sure he “won’t make later on in the season”.
Jeb Ayers is still recovering from a broken foot from football. He is one of the most experienced wrestlers on the team with four years. Otteson believes Ayers has developed a great base of wrestling and is very good at his style of wrestling.
“If Jeb can heal up, I feel he will be also be a state-champion-caliber wrestler,” the coach said.
Overall Otteson is confident the team will have a good year.
“I liked how the kids tried real hard, that’s all you can ask of them, Otteson said. “They had good attitudes and even when they lost they listened to me to correct their mistakes. The team has been awesome so far. They’re working hard and not complaining. They want to get stronger and better, that makes it fun to coach. We will have a good wrestling team by the end of the season.”
40th Annual White Pine Invitational Wrestling Tournament:
Team Results: 1st Battle Mountain., 2nd White Pine, 3rd Elko, 4th Spring Creek.
Tonopah Results: 106 lbs: freshman – Tanner Otteson champion (Defeated Lincoln Wrestler 8 points to 6 points in the championship match) First High School Tournament; 285 lbs. junior – Josh Kieck 4th place (Pinned in first round of 3rd/4th place match); 170 lbs senior – TJ Ayers.