LAFAYETTE — The Longmont wrestling team is young and inexperienced to a point that it’s focusing on weekly improvement in Season B, which is unusual for a program that has been laden with talent in recent years.
Given that the whole of high school sports in Colorado is taking things week by week, or even day by day, it’s not necessarily a bad time to be emphasizing incremental short-term goals. And in the opinion of Longmont coach Matt Engelking, the Trojans are making significant progress in the face of this past year’s numerous added challenges.
Junior Malakai Pinson exemplifies the Trojans’ pandemic-adapted approach.
“It’s a tough year for wrestlers, for sure,” Pinson said. “It definitely shows the people that want to be here and want to work hard and improve themselves. So every day, we go into a meet or a match or training and you focus on what you want to learn and you drill it hard so it stays in your head. It’s all about mental toughness and really just keeping after the work and getting it done.”
At the Centaurus Quad on Saturday, Pinson went 1-2 against other 120-pounders from Thompson Valley, which currently sits fourth in Class 4A in Tim Yount’s On the Mat rankings, Mead and Centaurus. His lone victory came via a 20-second pin against Centaurus’ Nick Copanas in the sole contested match in a dual between both pandemic-shrunken rosters.
On a day when several teams struggled to field anything close to a complete lineup, Thompson Valley went 3-0, Mead went 2-1, Longmont went 1-2 and Centaurus went 0-3. Bringing only five wrestlers to the four-way dual meet, the Trojans had little hope of leaving with many team victories. They did, however, fare quite well in their individual matches, something Engelking was happy to see.
“It’s all about how you define it,” Engelking said. “If you’re going to look at L’s and W’s, then yeah, we’re not doing that great. But it’s the little things that you see in their matches and when the light bulbs go on. We’ll keep fixing the little things and try to get better every week.”
It was a bit of a frustrating day for Mead. Head coach Ty Tatham, however, also said the day was productive in the sense that it revealed several specific things he believes the Mavericks can improve upon.
“We definitely have some things to work on,” Tatham said. “It’s such an adjustment just trying to figure out what you’re doing in practice and training and all that stuff, not to mention trying to stay on top of things when it comes to COVID. It’s all a learning process and I wasn’t super happy with everything today, but at least it’s things that are fixable.”
Gigi Bakradze, who has an impressive judo background in his home country of Georgia, was the sole victor for a shorthanded Centaurus team on Saturday, pinning Thompson Valley’s Gabe Rodriguez in 1:35. Rodriguez is currently ranked No. 8 in Class 4A at 152 pounds.
“Gigi, his style is very different and very unorthodox,” Centaurus head coach Arturo Mata said. “Here at Centaurus, we don’t pay a lot of attention to the rankings, especially in a year like this. But that’s a good win for him and I think he’ll continue to catch a lot of people off guard this season.”