Winter is creeping up on us, slowly but surely. As students prepare for winter break, Mason’s wrestling team is preparing for another exciting season.
The 2017-2018 season has brought a lot of change within the program. From the new coaches to the recent attitude changes regarding weight cutting amongst the wrestlers and coaches, this year’s team will be the first to experience how the program will operate for years to come.
The team has hired a new head coach for the program after former head coach Bryan Harris was promoted to Assistant Athletic Director. Coach Aaron Martinez, who previously coached Fall’s Church’s youth wrestling team, is stepping into his place.
Martinez was one of the founding coaches of the youth wrestling team, The Falls Church Force, helping jumpstart the program in 2012. Many of the current Mason wrestlers were a part of the youth team, so Martinez is already familiar with many of the current wrestlers.
“We have seven kids who were on the Force last season that are on the High School team this year. The nice thing about it is, when they come in the practice room, they already know the routine,” explained Martinez.
Not only is Martinez qualified with recent coaching experience, but he was also a collegiate athlete, wrestling for the University of Missouri, ranked as one of the top wrestling programs in the country for years. He graduated from Mizzou in 1991. Martinez knows the dedication and work ethic required to be a successful in the sport.
“The more discipline we have is going to make us more successful on the mat,” commented Martinez.
Another addition to the GMHS team was new assistant coach Pete Larsen. In addition, former Mason wrestlers Will Hoover and Danny Sedita have volunteered to help the team. Hoover was a state champion when he attended Mason, and Sedita was a state placer. Harris also attends practice regularly to assist with coaching.
Wrestling practices started on the first week of November, giving wrestlers only a few weeks to train before their first meet on December 2 at King George High School. However, with strong leadership, the team can overcome their lack of training time.
The team has two returning state placers: junior Jack Felgar, who placed third in states, and junior Bryan Villegas, who placed fifth during the 2016-2017 season. These two are expected to provide a strong leadership for the team and set the tone for the hard work that the sport demands.
This is important, as the team has no returning seniors to provide leadership, so a lot of responsibility will fall on the returning juniors to guide the young wrestlers.
Felgar has already been using his leadership position to express points of hard work to the team.
“I think that when you’re pushing yourself as hard as you can during practice, that’s probably the hardest part of wrestling. It is also the most fun part,” he said.
With a large amount of eighth grade and freshman wrestlers, and many who have no experience in the sport, it seems to be a very young team this year. But that only means an increase in potential for the group.
As for recent changes regarding weight cutting, wrestlers will no longer be allowed to wear sweats during practice in order to lose weight. Coach Martinez wants wrestlers to be successful in the sport in a healthy manner.
“I think that it’s a general change by a lot of coaches. Since wrestlers are still in High School, they’re still growing, so there’s no reason to stunt that growth. In fact, we want you to get stronger and bigger. And for some guys that cut a lot of weight and don’t feel good, they can sometimes lose motivation for the sport,” explained Martinez.
Many excessive weight loss strategies tolerated by other teams will not be tolerated by Coach Martinez this year. He wants wrestlers to have fun above anything else and wrestle at their natural weight.
Martinez has emphasized that wearing sweatshirts or sweatpants will no longer be allowed, as they are usually used in order to sweat as much as possible to lose water weight in the wrestling room.
He does however, promote the refinement of the team’s diet to naturally lose weight in a more healthy manner, but Martinez deems strategies for short term loss of water weight through excessive sweating unhealthy.
Another very notable change is the significantly shortened practices that Coach Martinez has instituted. Practices will only be an hour and a half as opposed to the usual two hour practices. He also incorporates fun activities and games like dodgeball to relieve stress amongst the wrestlers.
“The changes that coach Martinez brought this year brought out more wrestlers to the team,” Henry Casillas said, a senior returning to the team after his sophomore year. “The new coaches don’t allow any talking or messing around during drills. It’s all work the whole time except for the ten minute break where we play wrestling related games to lighten up the practice.”
With the combination of the gifted young wrestlers that have flooded the program, experienced returning wrestlers and a new coaching style, the future looks bright for the Mustang wrestling team.