Summit Tigers wrestling finding way to make weird season work
Tigers wrestlers open season Saturday in Rifle
Summit High School wrestling head coach Pete Baker did not think this season would happen. Neither did senior wrestler Gio Marquez.
“It’s a close contact sport — basically it’s impossible to avoid contact,” Marquez said. “Honestly, when I heard the season was happening I was surprised and excited. … Before, when I thought the season wasn’t going to happen, it was bad, because it’s my senior year and I wanted to wrestle. In that regard, this has made me happier and more joyful.”
The Tigers wrestling team is back, alright — albeit in a much different fashion. The Tigers are practicing in Summit High School’s multi-sport turf field house. It’s an open facility about half the size of a football field that was constructed a couple years back in part to help enable Tigers outdoor sports teams to practice on days when the Rocky Mountain weather prohibits outdoor practices.
These days, with the novel coronavirus pandemic, the spacious indoor facility has become the ideal location for the wrestlers to practice since they are unable to practice in their traditional, smaller wrestling room due to the district’s current health protocols.
With a hefty mat spread out over the fake grass, Baker and his wrestlers have gotten through two weeks of practicing a face-to-face sport the best they can.
That doesn’t mean the wrestling team has been spared or unaffected by COVID-19. Baker said one of the team’s best wrestlers, sophomore PJ Trujillo — who qualified for the state tournament last year as a freshman — has only been able to wrestle with the team one day so far due to an injury that was followed up by a virus quarantine that stemmed from exposure at school, not the mat.
Ahead of the Tigers’ season-opening three-team meet at Rifle on Saturday, Baker said he and some other wrestling coaches he’s spoken with feel this season is much different and much more difficult than a normal year. Whether it was strict health protocols or conditioning, Baker kept coming back to how he and the team are just doing the best they can in a very atypical situation.
“It’s not the same feel, the same vibe. Practice has been so short, by the time we get everyone in right state of mind and conditioned, the season will be done,” Baker said. “Normally in that first month of practice we are working out the kinks, getting all of the kids in the right position and doing the right moves and then, you know, working our cardio. Then as the season builds, we peak at one point knowing we are going into regional and states.”
Saturday: Tri meet at Rifle, 1 p.m.
Thursday: Tri meet at Steamboat Springs, 4:30 p.m.
Feb. 9: Tri meet at Summit High School, 4:45pm
Feb. 13: Tri meet at Golden, TBD
Feb. 16: Tri meet at Summit, 4:45 p.m.
Feb. 24: Tri meet at Eagle Valley, 4 p.m.
Feb. 25: Tri meet at Wheat Ridge, TBD
Feb. 26: Tri meet at Coal Ridge, 3 p.m.
Feb. 28: Eagle Valley quad, 1 p.m.
March 5-6: Regionals in Pagosa Springs
March 12-13: State Tournament at Pepsi Center, Denver
That’s the challenge the Tigers are faced with, but Marquez is not changing his goal, which is to make it back to the state tournament. Baker said the focus with Marquez will be to keep his cardio up as he heals from a shoulder tweak suffered on the mat recently. That said, getting back to state will be harder this year as, like other sports, numbers are reduced for the tournament due to pandemic protocols. Baker said the state tournament has been reduced by about half.
Baker said Marquez will either wrestle at 108 or 113 pounds while Trujillo, who put on a solid 15 pounds since his freshman year, will wrestle at 121. Baker said he also wouldn’t be surprised to see junior Rizzo, who wrestled last year at 120, earn one of the top-two spots at regional.
“He’s dedicated, he listens, and he’s a really easily-coached kid,” Baker said.
Baker also said junior football star Aidan Collins has all the makings of blossoming into a regional force this year. Thanks to his athleticism and strength, Baker said the “stout” Collins will have “a puncher’s chance” if he can just fine tune some wrestling fundamentals.
Whatever happens this season, Baker is doing his best to limit contact between Tigers. Rather than having every single wrestler wrestler everyone else on the team like he has in past years, this year kids are only wrestling one to two others. While half the team is live wrestling on the mat, Baker is having the other half jog the perimeter of their new home.
“With this being a seven-week season, the whole season just has to be running, cardio and not so much drill and technique as it is wrestling live and trying to fine tune things as we see it being done wrong on the mat,” Baker said.
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