The strength of the Elk Grove wrestling team has always been in the capacity of underclassmen wrestlers to take on new challenges and learn from their more experienced peers. While not all team members have brought glory to EG, other than several personal victories, the team is winding down and regrouping for a stronger contingent next year.
“Our team is young, and we have a lot of young wrestlers with varsity experience that can step up as leaders in years to come,” head coach Daniel Vargas said. “Our freshman have even gotten some JV experience so all of our younger wrestlers will be able to seamlessly step into higher level competition.”
Vargas went on to describe the season as being more difficult and competitive than years past which, he believes, is part of the reason the younger competitors will fare so well in the coming seasons; they have more experience working through labor intensive drills and facing tough opponents.
One upperclassman, senior Dionte Tillman, encouraged his younger associates to wrestle tactfully and aggressively, two strategies that help in a sport that requires as much mental preparation as it does physical. Among his teammates is his brother, sophomore Devon Tillman, who will help fill leadership roles when his brother is gone.
According to the older of the two siblings, his encouragement toward the younger members comes from his respect for his coach’s intense style of training.
“This season’s competition was difficult not only because of the coach’s mental and physical push to get our program out of the bottom of the MSL, but also because we are facing beatable teams in the MSL and that encouraged most wrestlers to get better during practice,” Dionte Tillman said.
While the team sometimes suffered defeats, they also took 2nd place at an invitational and even beat an MSL East team which they hadn’t done in several years.
Individually, junior Anthony Greco held the best record on the team, ending the season with a record of 22-4 in his weight category. His record was trailed by Dionte Tillman whose ratio was 15-6 and junior Joey Moody with a ratio of 16-7.
With several strong players returning next year, and varsity spots soon to be filled by younger wrestlers, Vargas is optimistic about the future of the program.
“I have high hopes for our JV wrestlers moving forward,” Vargas said. “They get significant practice time with the varsity wrestlers. We will need a few of them to step into a varsity role very quickly which will help strengthen our team and help get them ready for high level competition.”