Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Brad Cochi/ BoCoPreps.com
Paul Aiken / Staff Photographer
LONGMONT — Though football and wrestling are strikingly different sports, they do share plenty of overlapping themes.
The tackle and the takedown are close relatives. Strength, quickness, and remarkable toughness, are required to play both. Football and wrestling are also two of the most physical and bitterly competitive sports a young athlete can play. Both are challenging, both are rewarding.
For a particular group of Skyline athletes who both wrestle and play football, crossing over between the two offers something else. It provides a chance to remain together as teammates and continue competing alongside one another starting in summer and on through to spring.
“It’s awesome because we’re all really good friends,” football lineman and wrestling heavyweight Ricky Childers said. “We love to compete together and we love to push each other, and that just translates over from football to wrestling. Especially us guys on the offensive line, it really helps us to stay together through the different seasons because we continue to build our chemistry just by spending that time with each other.”
In terms of who benefits, having their athletes cross over between football and wrestling benefits the Skyline football and wrestling programs significantly by sharing several of the best athletes at the school. Many believe, and the Skyline crossovers agree, that athletes who participate in both sports also benefit from the transference of similar yet slightly unique skills that naturally occurs while training for each sport separately.
Like a wide receiver or running back going out for track in order get faster, Childers and his fellow Skyline linemen feel as though they improve important tools including weight transfer, footwork, reflexes, balance, hand fighting and tackling by employing them in slightly different ways across the football and wrestling seasons. The sports’ differing training regimens and methodologies are other potential benefits, as they can in some cases help produce a more well-rounded athlete.
Skyline lineman and heavyweight Oscar Aranday, for example, said the most tired he ever gets is during the final round of a wrestling match, which is considered by many who have experienced one to be among the most exhausting experiences in sports.
“We all want to play sports at the next level and that’s a big part of why we do both,” Aranday said. “Football is a great thing but it’s not the only thing in life. Anything that helps your skill, sharpens your knife, is only going to make you better. The hips and the mobility in wrestling, all that stuff, helps you with football. And playing football helps you with wrestling.”
Another two-way benefit to having its football players cross over is that they aid the Skyline wrestling team in filling out the higher weight classes of its lineup, which is something many teams struggle with. Including both Childers and Aranday, the Falcons wrestling team has a rare and enviable stock of five heavyweights and three 220-pounders in wrestling room.
To name a few, Nathan Gelles (120 pounds), Grayden Bridwell (138), Joseph Basil (152), Creighton Trembly (170), Ricky Waters (182), Isaac Hesse (195) are other current Skyline wrestlers who also play football. Most of the Skyline crossovers have played football for a long time but didn’t wrestle until they reached high school.
There is rarely any conflict between coaching staffs at Skyline over whether or not athletes should do both football and wrestling because Mike Silva is the head coach of both teams. Having his athletes cross over is a win-win scenario for him, personally.
“I think by doing one sport, they get better in the other and vice versa,” Silva said. “If they buy into that, it obviously helps both programs immensely. Some coaches would prefer their guys to specialize or be in the weight room all winter and that’s fine. But I’m a believer in multi-sport athletes and we’re able to get our football guys out for wrestling. Not everybody can do that and for us, our wrestling team really benefits from being strong in the upper weights. That certainly helps us in the winter and we love what having our guys cross over does for both of our programs.”
This past Saturday at the annual Gary Daum Classic wrestling tournament, which allows for teams to enter multiple wrestlers in each weight class if possible, the Falcons were provided with a rare opportunity for their football and wrestling crossovers to shine.
Childers, a senior, is the No. 2-ranked heavyweight in Class 4A, according to Tim Yount’s On the Mat rankings. Aranday, a sophomore, is also a talented heavyweight but is having to wait patiently for his turn to take over the 285-pound spot once Childers graduates. At the Gary Daum Classic, there was space for both wrestlers to enter the heavyweight bracket and each wrestled his way into the finals.
In the championship match, Childers pinned Aranday in 2 minutes, 32 seconds. For both young men, who played alongside one another in the 4A football state championship game just over a month ago on Dec. 1, 2018, squaring off in an official tournament title match was yet another unique experience that crossing over between football and wrestling has provided.
“It was a really fun thing to get two Skyline big boys in there,” Aranday said. “In a way, it was kind of just like another go at practice. He got the best of me, which isn’t anything new. He’s ranked in the state because he knows how to work. We work together during football and during wrestling and it’s an honor to know that I’ll get to take over for a guy like him some day.
“I feel like we’re a special breed because we like the competition and we never get sick of the competition. So right after football season was over with the state championship game on Saturday, we came in on Monday ready to lace up the shoes for wrestling.”