Tired and bruised though they might be, Tiger assistant coach Carlos Ramirez said the boys had become better wrestlers through the experience.
“My goal is for these kids to keep improving as athletes,” said Ramirez, a 2009 Patterson High graduate. “After all we did at camp, after all of the learning we did — these four are off to a solid start to next season.”
He and Joey Howard, Manuel Cruz, Jordan Canseco and Daniel Cota traveled more than 1,700 miles to Ames, Iowa, for the camp which was hosted by Kevin Jackson, an Olympic gold medalist and four-time All-American collegiate wrestler.
Jackson, in his fourth season as the head coach at Iowa State University, trains young wrestlers each summer through the camp.
“I look forward to meeting and discussing tactics and techniques with all athletes that will attend our camp,” Jackson said in a press release before the camp. “I am confident every wrestler will get valuable information from our camp. There are base skills all wrestlers at every level must have to be successful. My staff and I look forward in sharing these skills.”
More than an opportunity to learn wrestling techniques, the trip was a chance for the local athletes to bond as teammates.
“We had a great time traveling together and sharing this experience with one another,” said Cruz, an incoming junior. “It’s not very often some of us get an opportunity to travel across the country and see things for the first time.”
Cruz (138 to 145 pounds) reached the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Tournament at Stockton Arena a season ago.
During the camp, the wrestlers could learn with little distraction and compete against some of the nation’s top wrestling teams. Howard, an incoming senior, said he and his teammates had no choice but to improve against the talent in the gym.
“We’ll take this experience back with us to the wrestling room,” said Howard (145), a co-captain of last year’s team, whose junior season was shortened by a broken bone in his leg. “We learned a lot, and I think that we can incorporate that into our season.”
Providing instruction for athletes with a broad range of skill levels required a lot of those running the camp, but Ramirez said the counselors were up to the task.
“The camp was really good at showing us the little things,” Ramirez said. “Little things will decide whether you win or lose a match. If you can learn a set of moves really well, then not a lot of guys are going to be able to stop you.”
Each day of the camp was divided into three sessions. The wrestlers began the morning with instructions and demonstrations on takedown techniques, leg attack setups and finishes, bottom position escapes and scoring, top position rides, and breakdowns and turns. During the afternoon and evening sessions, they competed in team duals.
“This was a good experience, because there’s a lot of tradition in the Iowa State wrestling program,” said Canseco (120 to 125), an incoming junior, who after dropping his fifth-place match, narrowly missed advancing to Masters last season. “Not qualifying for Masters (last year) gave me a push to keep getting better. I’ve been working hard ever since.”
Only wrestlers who finished in the top five in their respective weight classes at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV tournament competed again at Stockton Arena.
Financial support from the local community and others generated about $6,000 in donations to help the four wrestlers and their coach attend the camp.
“The support we got from the community was amazing,” Ramirez said. “We started asking for donations at the beginning of May and had raised enough money (to attend the camp) within about a month.”
Ramirez hopes the camp springboards his charges toward a solid 2012-13 campaign.
“In this sport, you need to develop and grow that wrestling attitude, and the (kids) that attended the camp definitely did,” Ramirez said.
The boys are also hopeful that their recent venture will have a trickledown effect, helping the rest of the team toward a Western Athletic Conference title.
”I think we all have the same goals for next year — to reach the (California Interscholastic Federation State Meet),” said Cota (130 to 135), an incoming sophomore, who reached the quarterfinals of the 2012 Masters Tournament. “I think (we will) have 14 wrestlers on our team that are capable of pulling together and winning league.”