By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– With practice starting for the wrestling season for the McKay Scots Wrestling team Monday afternoon, they find themselves in a similar situation as they were in this time last year:
Young, but gaining experience with a room-full of athletes and a a room-full of coaches to help.
“Last year we had nine freshmen on the varsity line-up, out of 14 weights,” said Head Coach Troy Thomas. “This year we have already starting strong with 45 kids on the roster and growing, and while many of those wrestlers are new to our team, they are not all new to wrestling. Having the middle school wrestling programs back has been a huge asset to Salem wrestling. So, In a way I believe we are in a similar place as last year.”
One of those freshman from last year that’s now a sophomore is Norely Lara, the lone returning girl wrestler from the 2016-2017 season for the Scots; and the transition from middle school and being apart of the Varsity lineup at 106 as a freshman was surely a learning experience as Lara comes back for her sophomore campaign.
“The lessons that I took is basically skill and hopefully focus,” said Lara. “Freshman year I came in confident and nervous, not knowing the level really of the conditioning and skill of High School and transitioning was scary. But this year I think as a sophomore, I’m really going, I plan to improve during the off-season I conditioned a lot.
“The skill I’ve taken, it’s just cleaning up how sloppy I was last year. I did perform, but my technique was sloppy, really, really sloppy. My mindset, it wasn’t…I always thought I lost, it’s a lesson but in the inside I was always felt sad and so this year I’m just going to do better with myself focusing and also for the team because I was distant from my team freshman year and I just want more of a bond with everyone.”
Nearby her, as Thomas splits the team up between lighter and heavier weights, were two new girl wrestlers as Lara expressed excitement in the growth of female wrestlers with her team.
“I’m actually really, really happy,” said Lara. “Like just getting girls out there and beating all the stereotypes, getting the girls out there and saying, ‘yeah we can wrestle. Yeah we can do what guys do and it’s amazing too because ;ast year, during girls districts I saw so many girls with so much potential in them.
“And I saw the amount of girls I see at my school with the same potential, the same strategy and focus to go into our team this year. When I saw more than just one girl, my heart just went crazy. I love how girls are coming together.
And with all the new faces around the room, there are too a few too returnees like Lara are Anthony Alvarez who finished sixth at Districts last season at 220 pounds, Bryant Mendoza, Jonathan Mentado, Zair Ku Beiza when he comes back healthy and this year’s headlining wrestler in David Rubio.
Rubio had a stellar sophomore season, running off and on the anger and fuel of missing the State Cut as a freshman, but an injury the week of Districts knocked out Rubio from a favorable position of possibly adding a fourth McKay wrestler that could’ve went to State with Matt Jarding, Chava Camargo and Ku Beiza.
This past summer, he won the 170 pound Freestyle State Crown and competed in the National Tournament in North Dakota this past July.
“Just constant wrestling,” starts Rubio. “It helps you because if you never stop wrestling and then no one’s going to do more hard training and aren’t going to beat you so that’s what I’m trying for is not to get beat and try to improve from last season.”
As for being a leader, watching leaders like Adam Dryden, his older brother Andy his freshman year and Jarding the last two, it’s now time for Rubio to fill those shoes entering his junior season.
“I just want to teach how to succeed and that’s what I’m trying to do in being the leader and leading them to hard work and good ethics and just succeeding,” said Rubio.
As for Andy Rubio, Dryden and Camargo, those three State qualifiers were in attendance as ‘intern’ coaches as several Alums have came back to help Thomas and their old program continue to build.
“It’s really cool to come back and help because when I was here coming I remember all the other alumni coming in and helping us like Alonzo, Dillon and Travis and all everybody,” said Camargo. “And so to comeback and help like they did, pass on my knowledge to them as they passed on their knowledge to me.
Thomas knows the importance of having people like alums around, being a alum himself from the early-2000’s, to help show what he is teaching to the current wave of McKay wrestlers.
“The alumni volunteers are also an important asset for us,” starts Thomas. “The “interns” are great to have in the room because they can help show technique, or even run errands. It has taken us a while to build up our stable of volunteer’s, but I’m very appreciative of the help they give.”
And not to mention, the large amount of coaches will help keep the kids engaged and busy as he wants points Thomas as they wrap up the first day of practice as the wrestling season just begins.
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Photos By Jeremy McDonald