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The Los Alamos Middle School wrestling team wrapped up their season with a celebration to honor the effort put out by the team last month.
Coaches Ben Salas and David Rendell said the 2008-09 season best one to date.
“We were in five tournaments and placed first in four and second in one,” Salas said. “We’ve consistently been the top two or three school in northern New Mexico, usually behind Las Vegas Robertson and sometimes St. Mikes in Santa Fe, but not this year, we were on top of the pile the whole year.”
Salas believes the well-rounded year can be attributed to the ability of the team to cover most of the weight classes, which makes a big difference in tournament formats.
Salas began coaching the LAMS team back in 2002.
“A friend of mine called me up on a Friday and said the middle school didn’t have a wrestling coach and that if they don’t get one they will probably cancel the season and/or the program,” he said.
Salas learned on the spot that the season started the very next Monday. “I figured it would be 10 times harder starting a program then keeping one going so I said yes,” he said.
Salas was joined by Rendell two years ago and the duo has found success.
Salas wrestled in seventh-grade on the encouragement of his brothers and was hooked from the beginning.
“I loved getting out there and mixing it up with someone that wanted to battle me just as bad, it was a rush,” said Salas, who had a very intense year in the ninth grade. Salas was a good-sized kid with a mid-pack skill level, wrestling a lot of juniors and seniors.
The coaches encourage students, particularly incoming seventh-graders, with no experience to give wrestling a try for a season.
“This sport is unique in that if you aren’t doing well out on the mat it’s really hard to blame someone else or cover it up,” Salas said.
Salas believes there’s a lot of talent in the community, but kids need to be encouraged to try something new and not worry about failing. The sport builds physical condition, confidence and intensity, while not discriminating.
“It never gets to the point where you are not tall enough or you are not big enough,” he said. “There are spots for every type of person and you compete against someone similar in size.”