By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.–“Open your lungs, deep breathes…10 seconds. Ready go!” He barked as he and 10 other McKay Royal Scots grapplers warm up for open mats Monday afternoon at McKay High School.
As they wait for the season ahead and to meet their new head coach for the upcoming season after the departure of McKay-alum Troy Thomas, soon-to-be-senior and defending 6A State Champion at 170 pounds in David Rubio found himself running the workouts at the Open Mats in the upper gym of the McKay gymnasium.
And meeting twice-a-week, Monday and Friday afternoon this summer, Rubio wanted to gain interest in the program around the school by having it closer to home and home turf.
“It started with Stephanie (Mentado) she started opening up mats for us and giving us mat time and it’s really crucial to get all of these kids some experience before they head into the High School level,” said Rubio. “Like some of these kids wrestled Middle School and we have some returnees too and it’s really crucial to have them get some mat time in, that benefited me and it’s going to benefit them in the long run.
“Summer practices are all about getting people looks on how what position they’ll get in and in positions they don’t even know.”
Mentado, who’s son Jonathan wrestled last season and is also a member of the Scots Football team entering his senior season at McKay, spent hours in getting the coaching credentials to help supervise the athletes and run the Open Mats are happening this off-season.
With incoming freshmen in the room like Rubio’s younger brother Jesse, it gives him a taste of what High School wrestling is going to be about ahead of the winter months while for returnee’s like Tess Barnett, it’s more of a refresher course of sorts as they work on different techniques with one another
“It’s fun to get a feel of what High School wrestling is going to be like because this is what some of the competition is going to be like, so it’s kind of nice,” said Jesse Rubio, younger brother of David Rubio who’s entering his freshman year at McKay.
“For me, if I don’t wrestle for a long time I forget stuff, like I forget some stuff and it keeps it fresh in my mind,” said Barnett, who finished fourth at Girls State at 110 pounds for the Scots.
Alums have stopped by in the prior open mats like 2016 District Runner-Up Adam Dryden (2016, 160) and 2017 District Runner-up Matt Jarding (170) to aid Rubio in helping to teach as Rubio breaks out of his shell and become even more of a leader of the McKay squad this upcoming season as Jarding stopped by open mats to help
“It’s good because they help me become the wrestler I am. It’s going to benefit them too, just helping them around the kids,” said Rubio said of guys like Dryden and Jarding in molding him into who he is today. “I got to step out of my comfort-zone to be the leader of the team, sometimes you got to get out of your comfort zone and just help because some people, sometimes there’s someone to help so you just got to take the next step and become a leader.”
For the last thirty or fourth minutes of the Open Mats, they did some live action wrestling with some fun games like a Royal Rumble-like scrimmaging called King of the Mat as athletes try to get a takedown to win and continued until they lose. After about 20 minutes of the rapid-fire drill, they split up into teams and did a fun little game called ‘Queen Bee’ which is like Red Rover in trying to help teach the wrestlers to stay off their backs as they moved around the mats on their hands and knees.
All to stay loose and active in the sport and get some different looks.
By practices end, before they broke and left the upper gym after they rolled up the mats, they went over any questions led by Jarding walking them through answering the questions.
“I remember when I first got hurt my junior year and later in my senior year, I was kind of on the sideline, I was playing that role of helping out a little bit more on the coaching side,” said Jarding. “And it makes me feel really good to be able to help out the kids and anything that they have questions with, cause I remember when I was a freshman first coming in it was hard picking stuff up because wrestling is really technical and it’s very detailed-orientated.
“When you have someone that can help you explain and have someone that’s going to explain, trying to take the time and explain different parts and different ways they do stuff. Just a different perspective of how they do things it helps out a lot, so I like to be able to help the kids out and I want them to be successful later in the season.”
With Open Mats again on Friday in the upper gym where they roll up and out the mats, David Rubio is taking the bull by the horns and taking the incentive as a leader and the face of the McKay Royal Scots Wrestling Program.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald