PREP WRESTLING: Bear River opens league with wins over Foothill, Center
Special to The Union
With the sound of bodies smacking the mat echoing through Bear River’s Jack R. McCroy Gymnasium, it’s obvious wrestling season is in full swing.
The Bear River wrestling team got its Pioneer Valley League campaign underway with a strong showing against Foothill and Center Wednesday night, earning impressive victories over both the Mustangs, 72-12, and the Cougars, 47-27, to kick off the 2018 league season.
Foothill forfeited several matches with empty weight classes, however Bear River won each of its bouts with the Mustangs with convincing pins. In the nightcap against Center, the Bruins were tested a bit more throughout the lineup and treated BruiNation to plenty of exciting matches.
“Every match was a fight,” said Bear River head coach Kevin Figueroa. “I looked at the stands, everybody’s biting their nails and some of them didn’t even know why.”
Josh Miller (120-pound class) and A.J. Stone (128) got the Bruins rolling, keeping their opponents on their heels before going in and delivering pins to open up a 24-6 lead.
“Small, gritty,” is how Bruins assistant coach Jeff Danieli described this year’s squad. “We match up really well with all of our competitors right now.”
Like previous years, this season was delayed for a few of Bear River’s multi-sport athletes because of the football team’s deep postseason run that took them as far as a Northern California Regional Bowl game in early December.
“With football running so long it really hurt us,” explained Danieli. “Those guys didn’t even get into the room until Christmas so that’s three or four weight classes.
“We have the Miller brothers that are wrestling, one’s a sophomore and one’s a freshman. That’s Josh and Skyler. They’re good wrestlers all the way around. They’re very experienced. A.J. Stone is coming along beautiful… Then from there you kind of jump around. Micah Warner’s (145) an experienced wrestler, been around for a couple years. Clayton Anderson is in there helping us out at 138. We’re just solid. No one’s going to run through us, but it’s hard to compete with schools like Lincoln and Placer who have a lot of kids.”
Anderson (138) kept the momentum rolling for Bear River, going the distance in his match to earn a 7-1 victory and extend the Bruins lead to 27-12 over Center. The team would have its share of hiccups, but was resilient as a whole, bouncing right back to maintain its lead.
Senior Jacob Rivett (152) dished out a heaping dose of dominance, taking down his opponent with stealth-like maneuvers before flipping and securing a swift pin, pushing the Bruins’ advantage to 33-15.
Rivett is leaving everything out on the mat this season, going all in and adopting a new team philosophy while still relishing every moment with a humbled mindset.
“Everyone assumes wrestlers are all like big jerks and everything, but you go in there and you show respect to your opponent and the coaches of your opponent, and your coaches and your teammates,” said Rivett, who began wrestling a decade ago. “I was a captain last year and the year before, but we’re switching that this year. We’re having everyone equal. So usually we have people in the middle leading stretches and stuff, but everyone’s on the outside this year looking at each other from the same level.”
From there, Bear River only got stronger and pulled away from the Cougars down the stretch. Hunter Daniels (170) gutted up and went three rounds, bending, but never breaking, and coming out on top 8-4. He was followed by junior Aidan Smith (182), who wore down his opponent and had a few near-pin opportunities, but eventually took the match by technical, 16-0.
“That’s why I like wrestling, because you’re not sitting there weeks ahead just preparing for that team, you’re preparing for all moves possible and so you’re always working ahead,” explained Smith, a third-year wrestler who has several top-five finishes at tournaments this season, including a first place finish in Natomas. “This is more a way for me to control my moves and my aggression. I’m more of a skinny guy so everyone always tries to size me up and think I’m not as strong as I really am, but I just like to go out there and show them it’s the exact opposite. I’m more aggressive, straight to the point. I don’t like to fool around, dilly-dally. I just like to grab a hold of them and put them on the mat.”
Finally closing out the night was first year wrestler Trae Nix (195), fresh off the football field and on to the mat, fighting vigorously before swooping in and slamming the door on Center with a back-busting pin.
Likewise, joining the squad this season for his first year on the mat is senior Lukas Brodie (160), who was also busy contributing to Bear River’s success on the gridiron this fall. The senior first debuted at the No Guts, No Glory tournament in Roseville earning a pair of victories.
“All my friends were telling me I should do it,” said Brodie. “I was excelling in weight lifting so I thought I’d give it a try. I just wanted to give it a shot my senior year, why not? I really like it. I’ve already made a lot of new friends and everyone is really supportive, win or lose, so it’s awesome.”
It’s only going to get tougher from here for the Bruins with PVL heavyweights Placer and Lincoln looming, but this group is prepared to make the journey together.
“United, they’re united as a team,” added Figueroa. “All we’ve been doing is making sure each wrestler is finding improvement and we’re focusing them on the end of the year at PVLs, so how far they can go. This is all practice. However, Jeff has been working them, making them understand how team points work. We just need to take one team at a time and right now we’re sitting 2-0. Next Wednesday is going to be one of the toughest. It’s the same game plan we had here. I can’t predict it, but as long as each person represents their weight class individually we have a chance of winning. It’s that easy.”
The Bruins (2-0) now take aim at Placer and Lincoln. The double dual is slated for 6 p.m. Wednesday at Placer.
Brian Shepard is a freelance sports writer who contributes to The Union regularly.
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