Monday, December 12, 2011/lk
The motto is written all over the Hood River Valley wrestling room: Go Blue, Be Bold.
Through that phrase, which will be a rallying cry for the Eagles all season, HRV coach Trent Kroll is hoping to instill the idea that HRV wrestling, a sport that already has deep roots at the school, is not just a sport, but can be a way of life.
"I think that these things are going to help more than just this year," Kroll said. "They are for the rest of their lives."
The motto, based on the school's colors, encourages students to give their all for themselves, their team and their school both on and off the mat.
The emphasis on team this year seems particularly profound entering a season in which the Eagles have no single dominant superstar, but a lineup loaded with wrestlers with big goals.
Goal-setting should be a simpler task for the Eagles this year, as well. All around the wrestling room (now called the "Dojo," but more on that in a bit) are plaques with HRV leaders in practically every category, from most technical falls to pins in a season.
Above those plaques are signs listing every HRV district champ and state place winner.
The Eagles had their first male state champion since 2008 last year when Robert Frasier took home the 145-pound title.
This year Frasier is graduated and the team is sporting a very young lineup.
"This is a young group, but a good group," senior Katie Eddy said.
Eddy is one of only three seniors on the team, two of which are girls.
In addition to the youth movement, the Eagles are unique in that they may have up to three female wrestlers in their starting line up on any given night - Eddy, the defending female state champ at 122 pounds; senior Franny Ybarra, the defending female state champ at 114 pounds and freshman Jessica DeHart at 103 pounds.
Eddy was one win away from making it to the boys state tournament last year, and has her sights set squarely on that goal to start her senior season.
The Eagles also have several wrestlers with state experience in the lineup including junior captain David Brunk at 170 pounds, junior Cesar Zarate at 160 pounds and junior heavyweight Brandon Dominguez.
Dominguez opens the season as the top-ranked heavyweight in 5A, while Brunk is ranked sixth at 5A in 125 pounds and Zarate 15th at 145.
Brunk lost in the second consolation round at state last year, but has his eyes on a deeper run this time.
"I'd really like a state championship this year," he said.
While the Eagles have a lot of youth, they also have a ton of depth across their lineup, and that means the first few weeks will be spent sorting out who will be drawing the varsity spots in dual meets.
"Right now there are a lot of weight classes that are all in flux," said junior 215-pounder Juan Carlos-Hernandez.
The Eagles have numerous intriguing wrestlers in the middle weights, including junior captain Charlie Mallon at 125 pounds, Tex Spezia-Schwiff at 130 pounds, Chaz Peterson at 140, Andrew DeHart at 145, freshman Steven Swafford at 175 and newcomer Nick Morgan, a transfer from Ferris High School in Spokane, at 189.
To help every member better themselves, Kroll and his assistants are drilling down on team philosophy this year.
The wrestling gym is now the "Dojo" a place "not just for physical improvement, but for overall enlightenment" as a poster board reads.
Before they step onto the mat for practice, wrestlers are expected to bow as a sign of respect.
Team members are also expected to raise both hands following a victory, one to signal their own victory, and the other to acknowledge their teammate's help in the practice room to earn the win.
With a young group, Kroll has the opportunity to instill the philosophy on a team that will have several years to be exposed to it and adapt to all facets of their lives.
He said that will be important in developing a whole team concept.
"We are going to strive for excellence to be as tough as nails in everything we do," he said.