High participation in the jayvee program is crucial to the success of the Longhorn varsity wrestling team. As such, assistant coach Don Heizer has gone to great lengths to ensure the younger athletes have plenty of opportunities to flourish.
The first chance the less-seasoned wrestlers enjoyed was Saturday in a well-run jayvee meet that drew even more teams than Heizer, the tournament director, had expected.
Anticipating 12 schools would show up, Heizer was surprised when 14 turned up.
The meet set a Rim country record for most number of athletes entered (about 190).
In some athletic events, the huge turnout might pose a problem. But Heizer and the other PHS coaches and volunteers handled the challenge with poise.
Originally, three mats were set up in Wilson dome for the tournament. The increase in participation meant a fourth mat, in the wrestling training room, had to be put in use.
On hand to officiate on two of the mats were a pair of former PHS coaching legends -- Dennis Pirch and Dave LaMotte. On another mat, former longtime PHS assistant turned Rim Country Middle School coach Doug Eckhardt was officiating.
Watching the tournament, I found myself wondering if the young athletes realized that some of the most highly regarded names in high school wrestling were overseeing their matches.
I would think if they knew the background of those officials, the youngsters would beam with pride knowing some of the sport's best were taking time to referee their match.
What I observed about those three officials is that they often explained rules infractions and other nuances of the sport to the youngsters. Normally, that's not a part of an official's job description. He's there to whistle fouls and award points --hat's about all.
Throughout the match, the teenagers not only had the opportunity to compete, they also had the chance to learn from the best.
In the PHS training room, former Longhorn wrestling star Bryce River was officiating matches with the expertise of a seasoned referee. He also took the opportunity to offer helpful advice learned during his nine-year mat career.
The contributions of all of the officials helped Heizer pull off a top-notch competition.
Down the road, the aspiring young wrestlers will have even more opportunities to improve.
Dec. 17, the freshmen and junior varsity team members travel to Flagstaff Coconino.
The squads return to the mat Jan. 14 in a frosh/jayvee match at Greenway.
On Jan. 17, the youngsters are slated to compete in the Moon Valley tournament.
A junior varsity multi-meet Jan. 31 in Wilson dome is expected to attract even more teams than showed up Saturday.
A part of Longhorn coaching staff's philosophy and unique to the sport of wrestling is that the training room door is always open.
In most team sports like football and basketball, coaches set a turnout deadline for prospective players. That's because team chemistry is very important to success.
In wrestling, however, the PHS staff will allow teenagers to join the team at any point during the season. Heizer says that's because the staff always wants the option of teaching the virtues of the sport to potential athletes.
For more information, call Heizer at (928) 474-2233.