For some programs, expectations can be a weight that can crack a team and drive them apart. For others, that steady pressure builds a tight-knit resiliency where the final goals are part of a long string of hard work and preparation.
The latter seems to describe the Braves wrestling team as the program gets their season underway having won the last four Wyoming 3A state titles.
“We kind of feel like Coach Young did all season long,” said Head Wrestling Coach Eddie Clark, referencing the SVHS Football team. “Win it or bust. The kids feel that way too. It’s fun to have the high expectations.”
The Braves return a trio of state champions in Haze Child (120), Trent Clark (182) and Parker Merritt (285). In addition, the team returns Brayden Andrews and Ren King who advanced to the championship match at 120 and 145 respectively. Jacob Guild (106), Waylon Nelson (113) and Spencer Larson (126) all placed third last season and Winston Green (113) was fourth.
Clark said the numbers in the wrestling room for the first week of practice where pretty much what he was expecting.
“We got three days in before the holiday,” he said. “Good numbers; I think we’ll settle in right about 45-48 kids. We’ve got started with the flu bug that’s already going through the school so we’re dealing with that.”
There are also returners working back from injuries as well but Clark said the wrestling room has been a place that brings a smile to his face.
“I just really like the feel of our practice room this year,” he said. “It’s got a real good energy to it. The last few years we’ve had that and we’ve got it again this year. We’re loaded with it. When you’re around something and it feels good and they are working towards the same goal; that’s just one of the things that you can’t put a finger on.”
The program will have the honor of hosting the first winter competition at SVHS for the 2019-20 season as the Braves Brawl will take place on December 13-14. After that the team will face Rock Springs on the road in a duel before heading to Utah for the Weber Tournament. Clark said he expects the team to put together the season’s goals officially sometime in the next ten days. He has ideas on what will be important to the squad.
“We like to focus on the Richardson Memorial in Utah; we always want to do well there,” Clark continued. “We obviously want to win our own tournament and then we want to win Regionals and State.”
Clark explained that simply being ratcheted up to the highest level possible for the duration of the season just isn’t possible. So he and his staff focus on attaining three peaks during their training.
“Early season, after Christmas and then to end the season,” he said. “You can’t be at the top of your game all the time so we try and hit some peaks along the way. “
The program will be trying to duplicate something that has only been done one other time in its history, winning five state titles in a row.
Star Valley won seven consecutive titles from the 1991-92 season through the 1997-98 season. The Braves have won the last four in a row and eight overall under Clark.
“I’m excited the kids are working hard and their attitudes are good,” he added. “They have high expectations. The things that are important are there.”
The program will be certifying their weights this Friday which will determine which weight classes they will be allowed to compete in during the season.