Wrestling experiences participation decline

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The Roseville High School wrestling team has had great success in the past two years, sending four wrestlers to the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Tournament in back-to-back seasons. However, due to a significant decline in the amount of wrestlers participating on the team this year, the path to success will be more challenging than recent years.
Last year’s team included seven seniors, most of whom were on the starting lineup. In addition to losing those seniors, many other wrestlers, including key members senior Elijah Dustin and junior Hayden Simpson, are not returning to the team this year. Dustin and Simpson progressed all the way to the Masters Tournament last year, demonstrating their previous dominance and skill in the league.
Many of the non-returning wrestlers are ones that have been participants in the sport for years, and some, including Dustin, felt that the sport requires too much time in a single season.
“It’s a very demanding sport and [it] takes up a lot of your time,” Dustin said.
As a college sport, wrestling has fewer scholarship opportunities than other sports and Simpson feels that the sport is not as rewarding as it should be for the amount of time and effort the athletes put into it.
“You can’t really get scholarships for it anymore,” Simpson said. “It’s a lot of hard work and it doesn’t really pay off.”
Although many wrestlers decided not to return to the sport this season, there have been some new additions to the upperclassmen roster, including Christian Matlock – a senior transfer from Washington who already has wrestling experience. Senior Jacob Johnson, who wrestled in middle school, also joined the team. Varsity coach Doug Ash feels that both athletes could be possible starters on the varsity team.
After observing the drop in participation this year, Ash recognized that some of the underclassmen in the program are going to have to step up to the varsity level this season.
Ash believes that there are some solid freshmen and sophomore wrestlers that will have the opportunity to earn quality varsity experience.
“Allowing them to jump into the varsity ranks is going to make them better for the next year and the year after,” Ash said.
Current senior captain Zach Galley feels that the level of experience on the team is lower than it has been during previous years and sees this season as a learning one.
Galley has been on the varsity team since his sophomore year and believes that being on varsity as a younger wrestler can be beneficial.
“I hope to be able to help out the freshmen and sophomores that are going to be pulled up,” Galley said. “I hope that this will be a good learning curve for them.”
The returning varsity wrestlers recognize the upcoming difficulties that might exist due to the youthfullness of the team but still hope to see success coming with the help of the underclassmen.
“It’s definitely going to be a challenge because we don’t necessarily have a star wrestler,” returning varsity wrestler junior Jackson Knapp said. “It’s a team effort to get everything done, especially at dual meets, so we just need a whole lot of underclassmen to step up this year.”
As well as underclassmen additions to the varsity team, RHS teacher Shane Harvey has also joined the team as a varsity coach. Harvey wrestled throughout college and this will be his sixth year of coaching wrestling. He believes that he brings intensity and enthusiasm to the team.
“I do a good job of bringing the high percentage, solid technique I have learned over the years into the room while maintaining an intense practice atmosphere,” Harvey said.
Harvey already has experience helping younger teams with development and feels that he is ready to take on the task of working with this year’s newer varsity team.
“We are focusing on solid foundational wrestling technique and getting the team to develop the habits and commitment it takes to be successful,” Harvey said.
Ash believes that even with this year being a standard rebuilding season, the team can still progress to the top of the league with the help of its younger athletes.
According to Harvey, they need to take charge and demonstrate their full capabilities to do this.