PREP WRESTLING: Bruins ready to roar at league tourney
February 8, 2018
The Bear River wrestling team has all hands on deck as it gears up for the Pioneer Valley League Tournament Saturday, where only the elite will continue their respective seasons.
"We took a very green team and now they have some good experience," said Bruins head coach Kevin Figueroa. "Overall, I think we should walk out not losing one kid this weekend. However, you want to get a number one or two position because that will help us at divisionals next week."
As a team the Bruins swept their opening duals with victories over Foothill and Center, and more recently split another dual meet, defeating Lincoln by a close margin and falling to Placer.
Now the focus shifts ahead toward the league tourney and beyond. Every opponent, every match is taken one at a time as each wrestler pushes themself to fight on another day and perhaps qualify for the next postseason tourney.
"Just eating right," said junior Aidan Smith, who looks to stay locked in his 170-pound weight class. "Making sure I'm not looking way ahead, not thinking about Masters, focusing on the one coming up right now. I'm making sure I'm getting all my moves down so I'm really prepared."
The journey was cut short for Smith last season, who was unable to compete due to a muscle tear in his leg, but with some rehab utilizing water polo he has high hopes of redeeming that missed opportunity.
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Joining Smith and looking to make some noise down the stretch is senior and first year wrestler Lukas Brodie, who will be contending in the 162-pound weight class.
"I think I've made some pretty great strides," said Brodie. "Compared to coming my first day and knowing nothing, compare that to now and I've learned a lot, but a lot of that has to go to the coaches. Taking shots for me was a confidence thing. I remember at one tournament awhile ago I took my first shot and it worked and it was late in the third period of the match. It was perfect and it showed me I can do that."
Trae Nix (195) will join Brodie as Bear River's only seniors trying to go deep into the postseason.
However, it's not just the upper classmen who will be trying to make a name for themselves. Freshman Skylar Miller boasts 10 years of wrestling experience and an undying passion in his 2018 campaign.
"It's different than middle school I got to say," said Miller, representing the 115-pound weight class. "It's more about strength than speed. I would say I attack more than defend, but there are those times where I do defend. I just go out, wrestle and do my best. Honestly, I expect to win."
Also taking aim at not only advancing past the PVL tourney, but winning it outright is sophomore A.J. Stone, who placed third in the event last year.
"This year has changed for me a lot of ways," said Stone, who will be holding down the fort in the 128-pound weight category. "I've improved my work ethic. I've devoted lots of outside time to technique. It's just all about putting the work in for me. We've been working the entire year for this and it's up to us to put it on the mat. (Our coaches) aren't wrestling. We are."
With so much physical preparation going into becoming ready for game day, coach Figueroa warns how easy it is to be distracted by the big picture and lose focus of each individual task at hand.
"This whole week it's a mental game," added Figueroa. "All you have to be responsible for is the match that's in front of you, then after that's done it's the next match. That's how the rest of the season is going to go. It's not, 'Oh I want to make it to Masters. Oh, I wish I could make it to State.' It's like, 'I don't care. Just bring my next opponent in front of me and let me battle the best I can do.'"
The Bruins hit the mat at the PVL tournament at 10 a.m. Saturday at Center High School with the top four in each respective weight class advancing through to the divisional round the following weekend.
Brian Shepard is a freelance sports writer who contributes to The Union regularly.