Rams seniors help develop new generation of wrestlers
Jan 27, 2017 03:39PM
By Travis Barton
Senior Ben Berg pins his opponent in the first round against Bountiful on Jan. 18 at Highland High School. (Travis Barton/City Journals)
By Travis Barton | [email protected]
With a few weeks
left in the wrestling season, the Highland High School wrestling team has undergone
a season of growth. One they hope culminates in a series of wrestlers placing
at the state tournament.
“I’d like to see my seniors place at state,” said head coach Ted Sierer of those four-year wrestlers.
Two placed last year, senior captains Lilo Clark and Mason Netzler with Clark finishing fifth in the 195-lb. weight class and Netzler taking fourth in the heavyweight division. Both have goals to improve upon last year’s finish.
“My goal is to take state at least and be the best wrestler I can be. It may not show in my record, but it will show when I’m on the mat,” Netzler said.
Sierer said Netzler is very athletic for his size.
“Sometimes heavyweights are kids that are just heavy and they have one or two moves,” Sierer said. “But Mason’s pretty athletic so it gives him a little more quickness, little more balance.”
Clark is known for his relentlessness. He said his goal this year was to take down his opponent twice in the first round of every match thereby gaining extra points early.
“If I can take everyone down it gives me a chance to win every match,” Clark said.
Along with fellow captains Ben Berg and Ezra Dunford, the Rams have developed a solid leadership core for a team filled with underclassmen.
“We (the senior class) kinda bonded together and decided that we’re going to help build the program up and do everything we can,” said Berg, a senior.
With many wrestlers in the program starting the sport for the first time, this can be a crucial year in teaching them proper technique for their moves.
“Beginning years of wrestling are important. First few years you want to get better…hopefully they have someone to look up to and aspire to be as good as this individual,” Clark, a two-year captain, said.
Team captains all mentioned the mental and physical evolution of the team throughout the year. While underclassmen have had to learn fundamentals of the sport, that those instructions have progressed to the Rams’ matches.
“From the start until now, the mentality has changed from learning moves to putting them into practice. That will help us over this final stretch and the big tournaments we’ll compete in,” Berg said.
Netzler noted how that mentality has grown during his time in the program.
“Kids have had this intimidation—that I am scared to fail—but they should be thinking, ‘I should try this move.’ So there’s more bravery and courage on the team this year than in the past,” Netzler said.
Improvement for each individual has been a constant focus. Clark said the younger guys have processed goals to achieve that improvement like getting two takedowns in one match or not getting pinned.
Even though they’ve experienced challenges, Sierer would like to see a few underclassmen qualify for state.
“If we can have some returners next year with that experience, we’ll be in good shape,” Sierer said. “Never questioned heart on this year’s team. They don’t have experience, taken a lot of lumps, but that doesn’t deter them from working hard.”
“You just want to see your teammates succeed with you,” Dunford said. He noted that despite the gap in experience, the team has bonded well this year. “At tournaments we hang out together. Other teams usually have a little group away from the team, but we’re all together enjoying one another.”
This year has required vast amounts of teaching from Sierer, a two-time state champ at Hillcrest, but that comes naturally for him.
“I’ve always felt kids need to know you care about them. Otherwise why wrestle for you,” Sierer said. “Wrestling is a tough sport, even if you like it you wonder sometimes why you’re doing it. If you don’t enjoy the coach you’re with and don’t have an exceedingly high passion then there’s no reason to come out.”
Berg estimates Sierer has coached him about 80 percent of his wrestling career. “In little league, I would still look up to him as coach of the varsity team. He was always this overhead presence,” Berg, 145-lb. weight class, said.
While they connected on a wrestling level, having both competed in lighter weight classes, he said Sierer has an open-door policy.
“I can go to him about anything…he’ll talk to you more on a personal level,” Berg said.
Clark echoed those sentiments when he said Sierer helps prepare you for life.
“He realizes wrestling is a big deal, but it’s not everything. The real goal is to succeed in life and working hard here creates a good work ethic for life,” Clark said.
Which is exactly how Sierer likes it.
“Ultimately I want these kids to leave the program as men that can contribute to society…that means I’ve got to help them develop a work ethic, know how to do hard things. And wrestling’s a great sport that takes care of those things in itself, but your teenage years are kind of crazy anyways so I just want them to know they have someone that’s on their side, that they can come to me with anything and I’ll do everything I can to help them.”