Story and photos by Jessie Zhu
Additional photos by Shane Marshall
The numbers may be dwindling, but that doesn’t seem to have affected the energy level for the Juan Diego Catholic High School wrestling team.
Each year, the wrestling team at Juan Diego Catholic High School has been decreasing in size, down from 14 members in the 2012-2013 season to eight members last year and only four now, but fresh talent has re-energized the team and helped produce some breakthroughs in statewide competition this season.
This year’s roster includes returning senior team captains, Adam Murry and Carter Shearer, along with sophomore Connor Dumont and freshman John Manning.
Head coach Andrew Sedillo hopes the team will increase in size in the years to come due to the youth wrestling program at Saint John the Baptist Elementary and Middle Schools for kids in kindergarten through eighth grade.
Tryouts usually bring in around 20 kids, but the number slowly dwindles from there. Sedillo thinks most of the kids who try out cannot handle the intense workouts and diet.
“Wrestling is not really a sport, it’s a lifestyle,” Sedillo said.
This lifestyle requires wrestlers to position themselves physically, mentally, and nutritionally. The athletes are continuously conditioning in order to have their bodies in optimal shape. Practices last around 2-1/2 to 3 hours every day from Monday through Saturday, with competitions on Fridays and Saturdays and dual meets once every week.
“Each practice, we show up with the fear of God in us because wrestling is by no means easy,” Murry said.
A typical practice starts off with warm-ups, then leads into stretching, running and drilling, which is when the wrestlers work on technique. Each session ends with a half-technique session, live wrestling, conditioning and more running.
The wrestlers follow a steady uphill climb until they reach the time right before a competition or meet when they peak. During this time, Sedillo ramps up the intensity of shorter practices, so that the wrestlers can also be allowed sufficient rest.
“Wrestling will really get you conditioned more than any other sport,” Murry said. “I thought it would just make me a better person, help me be better at all the other sports I do, and everything else I do in my life, which it did.”
Not only does wrestling require physical strength, but also a maximal amount of mental strength, especially since it is such an individual sport.
“Most of wrestling is mental, 90 percent of it,” Sedillo said. “The other part is the technique portion of it. (I have seen) much improvement, not only their technique, but just how they’re preparing themselves mentally, physically. The big part is mentally; they’re starting to get more mentally tough and are able to come out and handle matches and do things that they hadn’t been able to do in the past.”
Shearer and Murry agree that one of the hardest parts of wrestling is the strict weight requirement. The diets are extremely tough on the body, especially for Shearer and Murry, who are both first team all-region football players.
“You burn a ton of calories [in football], then you go home and you can just gorge,” Murry said. “In wrestling, the workout’s harder and then you go home and eat nothing.”
Having both been offensive linemen, they even had to gain some weight for the football season, which they would then lose before wrestling started.
A wrestler’s typical diet includes food with high proteins and carbohydrates to keep the body moving and lots of water. Although they try to stay away from unhealthy food, every once in a while, usually a few days after a tournament, they allow themselves some wiggle room to eat junk food, but after that, they have to jump right back on track.
According to the managers of the team, sophomores Hannah Shelkey and Ali Stroud, cookies are a priority for the team. Along with making food purchases, the managers take down statistics during matches to help improve the wrestlers, and also act as personal cheerleaders. They constantly help take care of their bloody noses and other injuries during practices and matches. Even though it is their first year as managers, they say they have developed a strong bond with the guys on the team.
On Feb. 6 and 7, the northern divisional was held at Juan Diego, in which Manning, Shearer and Murry ranked first, sixth and seventh, respectively, in their weight classes. The next week, at the state championships on Feb. 13 and 14, Manning again placed first, which qualified him for the super state championships the following week.
The freshman is the second wrestler from Juan Diego to reach the new super state tournament, following 2014 graduate and former captain Jacob Nelson, the first wrestler to place first in the competition.
These unprecedented wins have brought positivity among the team and hope for an ever brighter future.
“We have a returning state champion and a few incoming freshmen that should make an impact on our team and the state wrestling tournament,” Sedillo said. “I’m looking forward to getting to work and continue to help these young men to accomplish their wrestling goals.”