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Lions roar into postseason tourneys | Prep wrestling
All the optimism crackling in the air for this one particular high school wrestling team seems a bit misplaced.
After all, Auburn Mountainview High School's wrestling squad ended its regular season with an 0-6 South Puget Sound League 3A dual record.
Nevertheless, Auburn Mountainview coach Adam France is high on his team as it heads into the postseason tourneys, which begin next Friday with the SPSL 3A sub-regional tourney at Auburn Mountainview High School.
"We're young but talented," France said. "We feel like we're at the beginning of a two or three year, pretty good cycle. We're on the low end of it, but we're pleased with a number of individuals."
Last season the program struggled, moving only one wrestler – heavyweight Dakota Weir – on to the Washington State Mat Classic championship tournament.
This year France expects a lot more.
"I think we'll take five-to-nine guys to state," he said. "We've got a couple guys that are right on the edge, that if they have the right tournament, can make it. We've got a couple guys in the middle that wouldn't surprise me if they do it, and won't surprise me if they don't. Then we have a handful of guys that should make it."
Among the latter group is Weir, a 285-pound senior ranked No. 7 in the state at 3A, according to the Washington Wrestling Report.
"It's important having someone like him [a state participant] because no matter what you do as far as leading a team vocally, you have that status, which is good," France said.
Also looking to move on to the state meet is 120-pound freshman Brahm Trujillo (ranked No. 2 in 3A), who competed in a national tournament over the summer.
"He's been wrestling for quite a long time, so he's got a lot of club experience with tourneys," France said. "He can do some things during matches that other kids can't just because he's been in those situations so many times. He can slow down a match and control it when he needs to."
France said he's also hoping the team can move on 152-pound junior David Boone (ranked No. 9 in 3A) and 132-pound sophomore Joey Santos, who also competed in national tournaments last summer.
"The other thing that we haven't had in a couple years is we've got three guys who competed in national tournaments for the state," France said. "Having that in the practice room is good too. That's really been a good thing to fall back on — when they're having success, they can show the other kids how they're achieving success."
Also on the cusp of making their presence felt in the postseason tournaments are 126-pound sophomore Dylan Foley, ranked No. 10 in the state 3A, and junior Zach Jones, a No. 11 ranked 170 pounder, whom France calls the team's biggest surprise.
"He's a wrestler who came to us as a freshman without a lot of experience," France said. "He was JV as a middle schooler. We had to talk him out of swimming his freshman year. He worked real hard that year and the next, but didn't have a lot of success. Then he started doing club wrestling with us and got a lot better."
"He's not the smoothest or most technical wrestler, but he's got a great gas tank," France said. "You can never count him out of a match."
This season, France said, Jones has stepped up, taking out five 3A- and 4A-ranked wrestlers in the regular season.
"We helped him change his view on competition and competing and figure out what he can expect of himself," France said. "Growing up, he kind of viewed himself as that last-boy-picked-for-the-team kind of kid. We had to help him visually see himself different. He's always been a hard worker and a guy you can count on, but changing what kind of a competitor you are can be a hard thing. That's what we've worked on with him."
Jones, who was an alternate to regionals last year, agreed that it was all about changing the mental aspect.
"My mindset changed, my focus," Jones said. "Last year I wasn't quite where they wanted me to be, and I knew it. There was just one thing that was missing, and I couldn't figure it out. But I finally got my mindset right. They always were telling me about the fire in the belly, that drive to just do it. And this year I found that. I haven't fully nailed it, I just keep trying to get it. Now I just try to focus on what I want to do to my opponent. I just come in wanting to kick my opponent's butt."
Jones also said he was he pleased with the progress his teammates have made.
"This team, this year especially, I've noticed a change in all the guys," Jones said. "All of us, especially the guys in my class, we all just decided to do it. Our freshman year we weren't even ranked, we lost almost every dual. This year we came close with Enumclaw and placed well at tournaments. It's really cool to see where we are now."
Boone, who made it as far as regionals last year, said he was also pleased with the team's progress.
"We've stepped up as a team, we're able to compete with high caliber teams now," Boone said. "This year there are a lot of guys that should make it to state. I feel like we have a pretty good chance of placing as a team at state, if the guys all work hard."