Wrestling has been going full bore now for a couple of weeks and the Trojans team is still riding the wave of success that hit them last year after winning the 2014 state title. Last year they sent eight wrestlers to state.
On the first day, over 70 wrestlers showed up to compete for 24 openings on the junior varsity team and a varsity team with 28 spots open.
Although the team graduated 10 out of 14 team members last year, the Trojans are not thinking they are out of anything.
Trojans coach Craig Rieger and his coaching staff are confident they will have more than a good year.
“We have won the league championship three times in a row and were undefeated three times in a row,” Rieger said.
Rieger didn’t even talk about the missing seniors (he only has 3 that are coming back). Rather, he talked about what he had and what those boys were capable of and he was very positive.
“We have Antonio Sandoval, who was fifth at state and Gino Gusman, who was third at state,” the coach said proudly. “The program has a lot of history and practically runs itself. We had 77 wrestlers come out on the first day. The kids come here and they know we work hard. We have a reputation of hard work. That’s what this program does.”
Rieger is depending on the three seniors, Gusman, Antonio Sandoval and Kevin Daffer to lead the team.
Senior Gino wrestled his junior year with the Trojans as a transfer student.
“Yes, I was mad at first for moving from Palo Verde High School, but when I got here this wrestling program was different,” he said. “When I found out about the wrestling coaching out here and how serious the school is about wrestling, I changed my mind. My old coach let us do whatever we wanted, but Rieger works us hard and is tough.”
Gusman said the team has a lot of freshman this year but he’s not worried about the team doing well.
This year Gusman will wrestle at 126 pounds. Gusman’s signature move is the “tilt.” This is where a wrestler takes control of one of the opponent’s arms in order to take control of his body and hips, and then turns him to his back. Gusman going into the regional tournament last year was 16-3.
Sandoval was a leader last year as a junior. At 126 pounds he finished fifth overall at the regional tournament with 4-2 record and was 15-5 going into the regional tournament.
Although Daffer was not a regular with the varsity team he did wrestle at the regional tournament last year as an extra, where he went 2-2. At the regional he gained much-needed varsity experience for this year. He comes from a tradition of Daffer wrestlers, having two older brothers, Kory and Kyle and a father that wrestled with the team.
He described his living room as a big wrestling arena and said he is outsized by his older brothers.
“I can hold my own with my brothers, but I’m not sure if I have ever beaten them,” Daffer said.
Rieger said his heavyweights dominated. That is, everything past 170 pounds usually won. This year there is a shift. He said the team is strong in the middle.
“We have a lot of depth in the middle,” he said.
Rieger said because of the toughness of the program he has never had to worry about filling the team.
“The football players know that wrestling helps make them better ball players,” the coach said. “They know we condition hard. Our workouts are twice as hard as any meet they go to.”
-Contact sports editor Vern Hee at firstname.lastname@example.org