South Tahoe’s wrestling team is having one of its most successful seasons in recent memory.
“This season is hard to quantify into one word,” coach Ken Robbins said. “We’ve been at the lowest point and battled up to the highest.”
The team is competing this weekend at the regional tournament at Sparks High School, which started at 3 p.m. Friday and ends with the finals at 3 p.m. Saturday. At this tournament, the top four finishers in each weight class will go on to compete at the state tournament in Las Vegas next weekend, and, according to Robbins, the Vikings have a few hopefuls.
All this success is coming during a year that has been a little out of the norm. Robbins has been without his “co-coach,” and best friend, of 10 years, Ryan Wallace. Before the start of the start of this season, Wallace was injured and unable to coach, leaving Robbins to take on the task alone.
They weren’t always best friends as their partnership started as two guys who walked into a wrestling room everyday and tried to beat each other up.
The rivalry soon turned cohesive as they fed off each other in the approach to coaching and technique. Wallace had the roll of motivator while Robbins focused more on technique and together their coaching styles balanced out, Robbins said.
“I’m termed the ‘head coach,’ but every kid that goes through here will tell you there’s two co-head coaches,” said Robbins.
“It’s been lonely without him I have to admit,” said Robbins. “It’s like if you were married to someone for 10 years and then the next day you’re sitting around an empty house.”
Robbins has to play the roles of both “good cop and bad cop” without anyone to bounce ideas off.
Wallace isn’t completely out of the picture. He watches tapes of matches and gives Robbins advice, as the two talk everyday.
The team has also had to make adjustments.
“Sometimes, even our seniors go and coach underclassmen because, at tournaments, there may be three rooms and Ken can’t be in all of them,” said senior Michael Crandall, who will be fighting to compete at his last state tournament.
Crandall, along with seniors Dakota Moss and Robert Hook have all stepped up to coach matches when Robbins is unavailable. Even though there’s someone there to help the underclassmen, all three seniors agree it’s not the same.
“We don’t have a coach that has Ryan’s ability to know what’s going on,” said Hook, who was close to going to state, but is sitting out this weekend due to injury.
All three seniors are in the running to travel to Las Vegas next weekend.
Crandall has been on the team for the last four years and described the coaches as having a balanced chemistry.
“Ken rules with an iron fist. His words hit you hard,” he said. “Ryan led by example. He was the heart of our team and without him we’re kind of struggling.”
Despite their struggle, Robbins doesn’t allow them to hold back.
“I’ve put them through a very tough season. We haven’t dodged anyone,” Robbins said.
Junior Addison Day goes into this weekend as a No. 3 seed in the 106-pound weight class, and if he can stay in that position, will go on to Las Vegas next weekend. Day admits this season has been tough as each coached offered a different kind of support.
“Their personalities went well together,” Day said. “We do as well as we can.”
Another states hopeful is freshman Andrew Herrera. Last weekend, Herrera hit the 30-win mark, and as far as Robbins knows, that’s an accomplishment that’s never been reached at South Tahoe by a freshman.
Even with all their success in a trying season, Robbins says the team hasn’t realized their potential.
“They don’t know how good they can be, yet,” he said. “You have to be eternally optimistic as a coach.”
And without Robbins, the team wouldn’t have grown into a successful program.
“Even though Ken has been on his own, he’s doing a great job,” adds Crandall. “I’ve been here for four years, and in my opinion, this is the best team we’ve had.”