Wrestling camp participants Vince Verela and Louis Trujillo look for some peace and quiet during a lunch break while relaxing with Verela’s pit bull puppy, Diesel.
Almost 90 aspiring high school wrestlers were looking forward to a cooling swim in one of the state’s most scenic spots. The aquatic respite would also mark the conclusion of the Payson Intensive Wrestling Camp.
It all sounded so refreshingly inviting until the wrestlers were told that the camp-ending conditioning regime also included a rugged run out of Fossil Creek where they had been bussed for the swim.
Those who have been to the remote springs located northwest of Strawberry know all too well the winding, curving dirt road out is uphill and at a steep incline. Also, it’s about four miles in length.
It was a run that would wear down the most conditioned of athletes.
Although it seems like a very difficult challenge, it was only one of many the wrestlers were asked to take on during the camp, which began June 21 and wrapped up June 27.
Before the camp, PHS coach Travis Koppenhafer warned the teens they would be asked to break through conditioning barriers in weight training, long distance running, sprints, partner lifts, hills and even a giant tire roll.
True to his word, he and his fellow coaches — all once national class wrestlers — put the campers through a program that tested both their mental and physical toughness.
PHS principal Roy Sandoval, whose son Ben was in the camp, called it “the toughest in Arizona.”
The campers represented high schools, classes 2A to 5A, from around Arizona and a few who enrolled as singles.
Due to the success of the camp, plans are for PHS to host it again next summer.